HK leader warns of economic downturn

HONG KONG, August 9 

Hong Kong’s protests are hitting its economy, the city’s leader Carrie Lam said on Friday, echoing warnings from business leaders, including powerful local property developers, as about 1,000 mostly young activists occupied the airport arrivals hall. But she ruled out making concessions to “silence the violent protesters”.

China, whose rule over the city is being challenged by the protests, meanwhile, demanded Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific Airways suspend staff involved in the demonstrations. One of its pilots was arrested last week.

The pair of warnings-one aimed at residents planning more marches still and the other at a business emblematic of the city’s colonial past-mark a toughening stance by authorities as they grapple with Hong Kong’s deepest crisis in decades.

Flanked by business leaders, Chief Executive Lam said companies in the Asian financial hub were “very worried” about the economic fallout from the protests, which began in June.

What started as an angry response to a now-suspended measure for criminal suspects to be extradited for trial in China has rapidly broadened to encompass calls for more democracy, Lam’s resignation, and even keeping out mainland tourists.

The protests represent a populist challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, just as an escalating trade war between China and the United States also hammers Hong Kong’s economy. China’s warning on Cathay, saying crew who engaged in the protests pose a threat to safety and should be suspended from staffing flights to the mainland, follows the pilot’s arrest and tumbling bookings.

Cathay has said it is taking the directive seriously, though when asked about staff participating in protests last week, Chairman John Slosar said the company “wouldn’t dream” of telling staff “what to think about something”. Dozens of other Hong Kong companies have warned of faltering earnings, while city officials caution daily that the protests are hurting livelihoods and could help trigger a recession.

Lam said the city’s Executive Council would next week resume meetings suspended in mid-June to prepare a policy response that would consider “daring measures”.

“For Hong Kong’s society to recover the foundation is the same (as that of the economy),” she said. She urged landlords to ease rents on hard-pressed retailers, but dismissed demands for an inquiry into police behaviour at demonstrations. — Reuters

Thousands protest at airport, more planned

  • Protesters have staged increasingly inventive rallies across Hong Kong, and brought out supporters ranging from families to lawyers in a bid to show the broad backing for their demands
  • The airport sit-in is the second time the demonstrators have brought their message to the busy travel hub, hoping to garner support from international arrivals
  • “Ask me about Hong Kong” read signs in different languages attached to the sleeves of some of the protesters. “We want to tell the passengers what’s happening in Hong Kong,” said a protester
  • Further protests are planned across Hong Kong over the weekend, with fears that new confrontations between police and demonstrators are possible. Hundreds of people have already been arrested in the unrest

We have had two months of political dispute and downturn “is coming very quickly. Some people have described it as coming like a tsunami ... the economic recovery will take a long time. — Carrie Lam, Hong Kong Leader