Hong Kong protesters occupy Airport, plan to stay for days

- A Monitor Desk Report 10 Aug, 2019 | 2330 Views|-+
Dhaka: Hundreds of pro-democracy activists began on Friday, August 9 what is intended to be a three-day occupation of Hong Kong's international airport, part of a series of demonstrations marking the 10th straight weekend of protests across the Asian financial hub.

Chanting "Hong Kong people, add oil," and carrying signs such as "all you can eat tear gas available in 13 districts," protesters gathered from midday Friday, August 9 in the arrivals hall of the airport's main terminal.

The move is the latest challenge to the government's apparent strategy of waiting out the ongoing political crisis and comes just days after a citywide strike shut down flights and trains causing travel chaos. The crowd at the airport, which appeared to number in the high hundreds, included many older Hong Kongers, in contrast to the young people who have been at the forefront of recent street battles with police.

Protesters held signs in English and Chinese and had printed leaflets in multiple different languages explaining the causes and demands of the demonstrations for arriving tourists.

The protests in Hong Kong began two months ago, in opposition to a bill — now suspended — that would allow extraditions to mainland China, where the courts are controlled by the ruling Communist Party. It has since expanded to include a number of other demands for greater democracy.

In recent days, mainland Chinese officials have issued stern warnings to protesters about the risks of continuing their campaign. On Friday night, August 9, the Chinese government struck at Hong Kong’s flagship carrier, Cathay Pacific, some of whose employees were reported to have supported the protests.

China’s civil aviation authority demanded that the airline bar staffers who have supported illegal assemblies or acts of violence from working on flights to mainland China. A Cathay pilot was reported to have been among dozens of people charged with rioting in connection with a recent protest, and more than 1,500 of its employees called in sick as part of the general strike on August 5, according to a union representative.

The airline in an internal system also changed the designation of employees holding Hong Kong passports from “Hong Kong SAR” to “China SAR,” according to three employees who checked the system and screenshots of the system provided by one of them

The system tracks travel visas for the crew, according to the employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the issue. The sudden change, seeming to emphasise that Hong Kong is part of China, alarmed some airline employees.

Cathay Pacific said it had received the directive from the aviation authority and was “studying it very carefully.”

Hong Kong's airport is one of the busiest in the world, handling 1,100 passenger and cargo flights daily, with services between the city and about 200 international destinations.

In a statement, the city's Airport Authority said that additional security would be deployed on site Friday to assist passengers and airport staff. In order to minimise disruption to flights, only departing passengers with valid tickets or boarding passes and travel documents would be allowed to enter to the check-in aisles at Terminal 1, said the statement.

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