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Army of protesters at airport shocks visitors to Hong Kong

July 29, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Visitors arriving at Hong Kong International Airport on Friday were startled to see over 1000 chanting, black-clad demonstrators filling the arrivals hall, a daunting scene that sets a challenge for tourism, which is now bracing for a downturn.

The protests, sparked by a controversial extradition bill between China and Hong Kong, have widened over the past few weeks to cover what protesters see as increasing Chinese influence in the territory. Unrest and street marches continued in Hong Kong throughout the weekend.

At the airport, protesters chanting “Free Kong Kong!” and handing out pamphlets are said to have included flight attendants and airport staff. The flight attendants’ union for Cathay Pacific used Facebook to urge its members to “stand up for our human rights and be connected with the rest of the HongKongers”, Reuters reported.

Cathay had been hoping to focus attention on its newly completed acquisition of Hong Kong Express Airways (HK Express), which is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Cathay Pacific. The takeover was overshadowed by the protests.

Jeremy Tam, a former pilot who is now a legislative councillor in Hong Kong, posted on Facebook an unsigned letter attributed to a group of air traffic controllers warning of a “noncooperation movement” unless the government responded to the protesters’ demands, the New York Times said.

The South China Morning Post reported hotel occupancy in Hong Kong is likely to fall by 3% to 4% this month.

Scene greeting tourists arriving in Hong Kong on Friday

As the protests continue, Japan, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand are among countries to have issued travel advisories concerning Hong Kong.

Data compiled by ForwardKeys showed that between 16 June and 13 July, flight bookings to Hong Kong from Asian destinations – except mainland China and Taiwan – were down 5.4% from the same period in 2018.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) updated its advisory to Hong Kong last week but did not elevate its level of travel advice beyond “exercise normal safety precautions”.

At the weekend, however, chanting protesters moved on the airport, intent on “educating” tourists about their grievance.

“HK is not safe,” one placard read.

“Tourist warning,” said another sign. “While the Hong Kong police are shooting at peaceful protesters on Hong Kong Island, the government employs thugs to beat protesters on the New Territories. Do not trust the police.”

No tourists have been hurt in the demonstrations, but Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) issued an advisory last week:

“Demonstrations are continuing in parts of Hong Kong. Confrontations have occurred between police and protestors, mainly on the weekends and in the evening. Expect road closures and public transport disruptions. Separately, attacks by reportedly criminally-linked individuals have targeted commuters in the New Territories. Avoid demonstrations, monitor local media and follow the advice of local authorities. We have not changed our travel advice level – exercise normal safety precautions.”

Arrivals hall at Hong Kong Airport

Mob violence erupted last week in Yuen Long, a district near the mainland Chinese border, when a gang of masked men, many carrying poles or sticks, attacked people in a train station and on nearby streets, leaving at least 45 people injured, including protesters and bystanders. In response, the train station was the focus of big protests at the weekend.

Written by Peter Needham

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