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Hong Kong chaos: new advisory and stranded passengers

August 14, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Hong Kong Airport limped into operation again yesterday morning, before closing again in the afternoon as demonstrators staged another big rally there after a day of flight delays, cancellations and passengers stranded. 

Yesterday’s action, which saw the airport suspend all outbound flights from late afternoon, followed the unprecedented cancellation of all flights on Monday, paralysing one of Asia’s top tourism and air traffic hubs.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) issued a new travel advisory yesterday:

“Protests in Hong Kong continue. Intensified protests at Hong Kong International Airport have resulted in significant disruption, including the cancellation of flights. Check your flight status on the Hong Kong International Airport website or with airlines directly. For Australians requiring consular assistance, please contact the Consular Emergency Centre +61 2 6261 3305 or the Australian Consulate +852 2827 8881. Our level of advice has not changed: ‘exercise a high degree of caution’.”

Business travellers and tourists, caught in the middle of a dispute they see as not their problem, are increasingly bewildered and fed up. They include elderly travellers and children, more or less trapped at the airport.

A confrontation between an inconvenienced Australian whose flight was delayed and a group of protesters – a brief debate, basically – has gone viral:

No physical clashes between protesters and travellers have been reported. The ire of the demonstrators is directed mainly against police and the Hong Kong government. No shops have been looted.

Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific, under increasing pressure from Beijing, has warned staff they could be sacked for supporting “illegal protests”. The airline has been forced to cancel dozens of flights. Some of its crew joined protests, including at the airport.

Beijing imposed new rules banning airline staff involved in the Hong Kong protests from flights to or over the mainland – sending Cathay shares plunging by 5% on Monday.

A #BoycottCathayPacific thread started on Chinese social media platform Weibo last week and had attracted more than 33 million views and 13,000 comments by early this week.

Hong Kong scene – police fire tear gas

For tourism, the situation is serious. Rich shoppers from mainland China are no longer arriving in Hong Kong; thousands of other visitors are being deterred by scenes of demonstrators battling police. Hotels and airlines are suffering and the airport has suffered five days of protests and disruptions.

Hong Kong has been promoted since 2001 as “Asia’s World City”.

The protests are close to entering their 11th week and views differ on where they are heading. Some say continuing widespread unrest and public disorder may prompt Beijing to crack down hard on the territory.

Photos of military vehicles in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, have reinforced feeling that intervention may be on the way.

China already has a garrison of troops in Hong Kong, but they are confined to barracks – so far.

Where the situation is heading is anyone’s guess, but although tourism is very important to Hong Kong, it seems to have been sidelined in the current dispute.

Written by Peter Needham

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