September 09, 2019
HONG Kong: Police here thwarted another disruption at the airport by pro-democracy activists, but had to battle protesters at subway stations on Saturday as the months-long unrest showed no signs of abating even after the government offered a concession days earlier.
Police mounted road checks and inspected passengers on trains and buses heading to the airport to weed out protesters. An Associated Press journalist at an area near the airport witnessed at least two bus passengers being handcuffed and taken away after police found face masks in their bags.
The express train service to the airport was limited, running to and from downtown Hong Kong but skipping all stations in between. Only people with plane tickets were allowed to enter the airport terminals, and those milling around an adjoining bus terminal were chased off.
Several hundred angry protesters, many in masks, converged at a subway station in the Tung Chung area adjacent to the airport. They chanted slogans and called police “murderers” amid widespread anger over alleged brutality against demonstrators during three months of protests in the city that have become increasingly violent.
Shops were shuttered and the station was shut down in the evening as the mood grew tense. Protesters spilled onto the street after riot police with batons confronted them, with several people detained.
Hong Kong’s airport, the world’s eighth busiest, has been a frequent target during a summer of protests sparked by an extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.
Many saw the bill as a glaring example of the Chinese territory’s eroding autonomy since the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced Wednesday that her government would withdraw the bill, but that failed to appease protesters who have expanded their goals to include other issues.
The airport rail link was suspended last weekend after protesters threw objects on the track, blocked roads near the airport and damaged a nearby subway station. Last month, the airport was shut down for two days after protesters occupied the terminals, leading to violent clashes.
Airport operations ran normally Saturday following the security operation, although some travelers complained they had to get to the airport early.
Susan Reigel from Denver, Colorado said she arrived at the airport eight hours ahead of her flight back to the US.
“I don’t really have a feeling regarding the protests,” said Reigel, who spent three days in Hong Kong after a trip to mainland China. “It’s just been a little bit of an inconvenience.”
Another traveler at the airport, Jens Schlimmer of Germany, expressed support for protesters fighting for their rights, saying he would do the same if it was his country.
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