HK protests spread to airport

HONG KONG, July 26 

More than 1,000 protesters calling for democracy and some chanting “free Hong Kong” converged on the Chinese-ruled city’s airport on Friday as Singapore advised its travellers to avoid protest areas in the territory.

Hong Kong airport authorities said operations wouldn’t be affected, but advised passengers to arrive early given the risk of disruption.

The former British colony, which returned to China in 1997, is embroiled in its worst political crisis for decades after two months of increasingly violent protests that have posed one of the gravest populist challenges to Communist Party rulers in Beijing.

The demonstrations, mushrooming up almost daily, saw the defacement of China’s main representative office last weekend, triggering warnings from Beijing this was an attack on China’s sovereignty.

More protests are expected on Saturday with demonstrators outraged at an attack on Sunday at a train station by armed men who police sources say included some with triad backgrounds. Some 45 people were wounded.

Hong Kong returned to China under a “one country, two systems” formula, guaranteeing its freedoms, including the freedom to protest not enjoyed on the mainland, for at least 50 years.

What started as an angry response to a now-suspended extradition Bill, which would have allowed defendants to be sent to the mainland for trial, now includes demands for greater democracy and the resignation of Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam.

Some protesters, dressed in helmets and seated on the ground of the arrivals hall, held up signs calling on the government to withdraw the extradition Bill completely, while chants of “Free Hong Kong” reverberated around the building.

The crowds swelled to fill almost half the arrivals hall. “The world has been watching us in the past few weeks,” said Jeremy Tam, a former pilot and lawmaker who helped organise the protest with other aviation sector employees.

“We simply believe that the airport is the most direct way for all tourists to explain what is happening in Hong Kong,” he added. — Reuters

‘Educating’ visitors

  • Organisers billed the airport rally as an opportunity to brief arrivals, particularly visitors from mainland China where the state-controlled news has portrayed the protests as a violent, foreign-funded plot to destabilise the motherland
  • The demonstration was peaceful and good-humoured, and there were no reports of any disruption to flights
  • A group was using a television to display a satirical version of an airline safety announcement video that details the movement’s demands and warns of protests in the city