‘Respect commuters’ rights’, HK government tells protesters as chief executive and transport minister visit reopened MTR station

10-Sep-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:56 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s leader met with airport and railway operators on Monday to review existing measures to stop protesters and plans to step up defences, as an MTR Corporation union warned that the company was under severe strain.

The union representing employees of the MTR Corporation said damage was being inflicted on the city’s railways stations faster than it could be repaired. The union chief said operations at busy stations like Prince Edward, Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei are in jeopardy because of a lack of undamaged components needed for repair.

A day after radicals wreaked havoc at the Central MTR station, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, flanked by Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan and senior officials from the rail operator, examined turnstiles and other damaged machinery at the station.

Chan and the top three officials from the MTR Corporation chair Rex Auyeung Pak-kuen, CEO Jacob Kam Chak-pui and operations director Adi Lau Tin-shing also went to Wan Chai station to inspect installations there.

A protester breaks glass at an entrance on Central MTR station on Sunday.(South China Morning Post)

A protester breaks glass at an entrance on Central MTR station on Sunday.(South China Morning Post)

“We came to take a look at the facilities and to raise the morale of MTR staff, who worked overnight to restore facilities and services,” Chan said, as passers-by shouted obscenities and the protesters’ slogan of “five demands, not one less”.

“Protesters should respect commuters’ rights,” he added.

Auyeung, appearing in public for the first time since the MTR became a target of protesters, appealed to demonstrators to have respect for the rail system, which is used daily by 5.4 million people.

“The rail system is the pride of Hong Kong, which we should treasure,” he said.

On Monday afternoon, Lam met with Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung, the MTR officials, and the Airport Authority chair, Jack So Chak-kwong, and its CEO, Fred Lam Tin-fuk, over the effectiveness of the measures that had been taken against the protesters.

Central was one of four stations together with Wan Chai, Mong Kok and Prince Edward which were shut temporarily on Sunday after radicals trashed station facilities following a rally in the city’s central business district.

Rod-wielding radicals broke glass windows inside and outside the stations. At Central station, some set fire to a ground-level entrance near the luxurious Mandarin Oriental hotel.

Services at Central station were normal on Monday morning, although the smell of burning lingered in the air near exit F, which protesters set fire to the previous day.

At Wan Chai station, monitors on some of the turnstiles were damaged, causing confusion at times for passengers who stood at the gates wondering if they had managed to pay with their stored-value Octopus cards. All gates were functional, although an add-value machine and some television screens were out of order as of noon.

The rail firm was forced to shut Central station on Sunday afternoon after some radicals broke away from a rally at Chater Garden. The rally took place before a march to the US consulate to appeal to US President Donald Trump for help over the city’s human rights and democratic development. The police said they arrested 157 people aged between 14 and 63 from Friday to 5am on Monday.

Protesters are dissatisfied at Lam refusing to accede to all five of their demands, despite her last Wednesday meeting one of the demands and withdrawing the extradition legislation that sparked the unrest three months ago. The bill would have allowed criminal suspects to be transferred to jurisdictions Hong Kong lacked an extradition bill with, including mainland China.

In the months of protests that followed, the MTR Corp became a target of protesters, who accused it of siding with Beijing and the police.

The destruction at stations has included CCTV cameras, Octopus card readers, ticketing machines, glass doors, turnstiles and station control rooms. Protesters have been accused of looting fire extinguishers and defacing stations.

Tam said thousands of employees were mobilised to repair ruined facilities overnight, but many were battered beyond repair.

To make way for the ad hoc repair, Tam said some routine and scheduled maintenance was put on hold.

“We restored the impaired facilities with components we took from equipment in unharmed stations, but we will soon run out of parts,” he said. “However, for some stations like Prince Edward, Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei, which protesters repeatedly vandalised after repair, we are not sure if they will survive another round of massive damage.”

More than 40 per cent of 91 MTR stations have been damaged.

Tam said facilities of the MTR’s light rail system serving Yuen Long, Tin Shui Wai and Tuen Mun were also badly damaged. He said more than half of the 64 stations had Octopus card readers destroyed and machines for topping up Octopus cards smashed.

“We have complaints from students who were late for school in the past week as a result of insufficient Octopus card readers at light rail stations,” he said.

China’s official state news agency, Xinhua, condemned Sunday’s violence at MTR stations.

“Astonishingly, there are still people in Hong Kong society who are exceptionally tolerant towards violence and refuse to cut ties with the violent protesters,” it said.

“In reality, this kind of mentality had fuelled the aggressiveness of those mobs, and gave them a false feeling that the whole society would support or accept their so-called ‘resistance’ and continue to live in a self-beautifying illusion”.




Category: Hong Kong

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