Hong Kong hit by transport chaos ahead of city-wide strike

Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

Several protesters tried to delay trains at key MTR stations

Protesters in Hong Kong have taken to the streets in an attempt to disrupt transport services, ahead of a city-wide strike later on Monday.

There were delays on the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) as scuffles broke out between commuters and activists who tried to stop trains leaving.

At the airport, more than 200 flights were cancelled as authorities warned passengers about potential disruptions.

It follows the ninth consecutive weekend of protests in Hong Kong.

At a press conference on Monday, the city’s leader Carrie Lam said the “extensive disruptions in the name of certain demands have seriously undermined Hong Kong’s law and order, and are pushing our city… to the verge of a very dangerous situation”.

What is planned for Monday?

Protests have been planned across the city, with strike organisers saying more than 14,000 people from across 20 sectors have vowed to take part.

Workers from sectors like the civil service – who are ordered to be politically neutral – have reportedly agreed to participate.

Civil servants were among those who took part in demonstrations that started on Friday and continued throughout the weekend.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionProtests take place in Hong Kong for the ninth weekend – for and against the authorities

Violent clashes broke out between protesters and police, culminating in police firing tear gas.

Which flights are affected?

Most of the cancelled flights are with local carrier Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines.

Hong Kong airport, one of the busiest in the world, said travellers should check its website and seek updates directly from the airlines.

“The Airport Authority advises passengers to check with their airlines for the latest flight information, and to proceed to the airport only when their seats and flight time have been confirmed,” the airport said in a statement.

Even getting to the airport has been more difficult with protesters forcing the Airport Express train service to be briefly suspended.

What’s behind the Hong Kong protests?

The protests were initially sparked by a controversial bill that would allow China to extradite suspects from Hong Kong to the mainland.

Critics said it would undermine the territory’s judicial independence and could be used to target those who spoke out against the Chinese government.

Although the bill has now been suspended, demonstrators want it to be fully withdrawn.

Their demands have broadened to include the resignation of the city’s leader Carrie Lam, and the dropping of riot charges linked to the protests.

Hong Kong – a former British colony – is part of China but enjoys unique freedoms not seen on the mainland.

Tensions rose further last week as more than 40 activists appeared in court on Wednesday charged with rioting, after protests that turned violent.

They could face up to 10 years behind bars if convicted.

China’s People’s Liberation Army has so far stayed out of the protests, but China’s top policy office in Hong Kong has previously condemned the protests, calling then “horrendous incidents” that have caused “serious damage to the rule of law”.

Unease rose last week when China’s army in Hong Kong posted a video on Chinese social media network Weibo showing soldiers conducting anti-riot drills.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionThe video shows a soldier using a loudspeaker to warn protesters