HONG KONG – Hong Kong was hit by travel chaos on Monday (Aug 5) as more than 230 flights to destinations around Asia were cancelled, and more are likely to follow, with air traffic controllers joining a citywide strike that is disrupting the financial hub.
Some flights for Tuesday were also cancelled.
The airport authority said only one of the two runways at the Hong Kong International Airport will operate between midday on Monday, and 6am on Tuesday.
Airlines such as Cathay Pacific, HK Express, and Hong Kong Airlines were badly hit.
One flight from Singapore to Hong Kong, operated by Cathay Pacific and scheduled to depart at 8.10pm, was cancelled, according to the Changi International Airport website, as of noon on Monday.
According to Hong Kong International Airport’s website, in addition to the earlier cancellations, flights from S7 Airlines, Fiji Airways and American Airlines scheduled to arrive in Singapore, were also cancelled.
Ms Michelle Marshall, from Britain, told a Hong Kong newspaper: “If I had known in January what was going to happening in Hong Kong, I wouldn’t have booked.”
TRAIN SERVICES PARALYSED
Most MTR services have also been suspended across Hong Kong, as anti-extradition protests escalate further following a weekend of clashes between protesters and police.
A woman, who was identified as Ms Wong, told the Post that she boarded her bus 45 minutes earlier than usual, fearing disruption.
“There is a bit of inconvenience for me and I feel tired this morning,” Ms Wong, who is in her 20s and works in finance, said, adding that she neither supports nor opposes the protest.
Some passengers who failed to board trains to travel to their workplace decided to return home.
At 1pm, rallies are expected in seven locations – Admiralty, Mong Kok, Wong Tai Sin, Tai Po, Sha Tin, Tsuen Wan and Hong Kong International Airport.
At 3pm, there will be an assembly in Tuen Mun.
Roads have been blocked by anti-extradition protesters, causing major obstruction to traffic.
Barricades had earlier been put up by the authorities around the Central Government Offices in the city, in anticipation of widespread chaos.
Messages circulating via the Telegram messaging app had called on protesters to start the day at 7.30am to disrupt train services at Kwun Tong line Diamond Hill station in Kowloon, Tsuen Wan line Lai King station in Kwai Chung, and Island line Fortress Hill station.
The Confederation of Trade Unions earlier said that most of the 95 unions affiliated with it, including staff of various sectors such as transport, education, property management and security, vowed to go on strike.
“The problem now is there is no real end in sight as to what the end game is for the protests,” Mr Sean Darby, global equity strategist at Jefferies Hong Kong, told Bloomberg. “The disruptions that are occurring now both to travel and the people shopping or even coming into Hong Kong are starting to make quite a big impact on the economy.”
CITY’S TOP LEADER LAM CONDEMNS STRIKE, VIOLENT PROTESTERS
At a press conference at 10am, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam strongly condemned the strike, violent protesters and their attacks on police stations. She was accompanied by Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung and Financial Secretary Paul Chan.
She also condemned protesters who threw a Chinese flag into Victoria Harbour last Saturday.
“Some people threw the national flag into the sea, while some call for ‘glorious revolution’ in Hong Kong,” Mrs Lam said, warning: “These actions challenge ‘one country, two systems’ and threaten Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.”
“When the welfare of seven million people is being affected, my colleagues and I have the responsibility to stand fast to our positions,” she told reporters.
On Sunday night, the government issued a statement in which it said that the “blatant violation of law, wanton destruction of public peace and violent attacks on the police will harm Hong Kong’s society, economy and our people’s livelihood”.
“Such acts have already gone far beyond the limits of peaceful and rational protests, for which the government and general public will not condone under any circumstances. Otherwise, they will push Hong Kong into a very dangerous situation,” it warned.
The government stressed that the economy is suffering from both external headwinds and local social issues, and that the latest economic data, which is the worst over the past decade, shows that the city’s economy is weakening and the risks of downturn are increasing.
“Any large-scale strikes and acts of violence… will only undermine further the local economy that is facing downside risks, as well as the confidence of the international community and overseas investors in Hong Kong’s society and economy, causing loss and damages to law and order, economy, people’s livelihood, employment and, eventually, to the detriment of all quarters of society.”
Pregnant woman resting on train platform at Fortress Hill MTR station
The warning came after a night of protests and acts of vandalism that sprung up across the territory on Sunday.
POLICE ARREST 44 FOR SUNDAY’S PROTESTS
Police have arrested 44 people for offences including unlawful assembly and possession of offensive weapons. They also strongly condemned radical protesters who disregarded law and order, reiterating that resolute enforcement actions would be taken against all illegal and violent acts.
Thousands gathered in Tseung Kwan O for a rally on Sunday before surrounding the police station there to pelt it with rocks and eggs.
They later moved to Kennedy Town and Sai Ying Pun in western Hong Kong island, where they faced off with the riot police who fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. Sai Ying Pun district, where street battles took place the two previous weekends, is where Beijing’s liaison office in the city and the Western Police Station were located.
The crowd then heeded calls to gather at Causeway Bay, where they blocked key roads including Gloucester Road and Hennessy Road, and disrupted traffic.
In a bid to slow the police’s advance, a small group torched rubbish bins and wooden panels on a side street as officers in riot gear closed in.
At the same time, some protesters broke away from the Causeway Bay crowd to block the Cross Harbour tunnel before joining another small group that vandalised Hong Kong’s national flower statue at Bauhinia Square, where official ceremonies are held.
These protesters regrouped in various sites including Kwun Tong, Wong Tai Sin, Lam Tin, Kowloon Tong and Mei Foo.
In some cases, residents joined protesters by hurling abuse at the police.
That was the ninth straight weekend of protests in Hong Kong, in a ballooning political crisis triggered by Mrs Lam’s push for a highly unpopular extradition Bill that critics said would have allowed the city to send suspects to mainland China which has an opaque legal system.