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Hong Kong protesters disrupt train service during morning rush hour

/ 03:14 PM July 30, 2019

A train was held up for more than half an hour, RTHK reported. Police were also at the scene but no arrests were made. CHONG JUN LIANG/The Straits Times/Asia News Network

HONG KONG — Commuters in Hong Kong were met with traffic disruption on Tuesday (July 30) during morning rush hour as anti-extradition protesters attempted to stop trains from moving.

Train service in the east was delayed and later suspended after dozens of protesters, some clad in black and wearing masks, tried to prevent a Whampoa-bound train at Tiu Keng Leng Station in Sai Kung from leaving.

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Some protesters turned up at the station at 7:50 am to block the train doors with their hands, bodies or items as  passengers expressed their annoyance at the disruption to their morning commute. This station connects the Kwun Tong line with the Tseung Kwan O line.

A train was held up for more than half an hour, RTHK reported. Police were also at the scene but no arrests were made.

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In one train carriage, some commuters got into heated arguments with the protesters and the police had to step in.

“It’s so inconvenient and annoying, really. I am in hurry to work, to make a living. Will you give away your salary to me?” said a 64-year-old man surnamed Liu.

Sharon, a 21-year-old masked protester who declined to give her full name, told Reuters: “We don’t know how long we are going to stay here, we don’t have a leader, as you can see this is a mass movement now.”

“It’s not our intention to inconvenience people, but we have to make the authorities understand why we protest. We will continue with this as long as need.”

Others chanted, “Liberate Hong Kong,” and “Revolution of our Time”.

Train operator MTR Corporation said service at the Tiu Keng Leng and Kwun Tong stations will be suspended as a result of the the protests. MTR has arranged for shuttle buses for affected passengers at the two stations.

Services on the Island Line between Causeway Bay and Tai Koo Stations were also suspended. But Tai Koo Station was reopened before 11am.

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The actions have triggered a domino effect with Whampoa-bound trains at Mong Kok Station slowing and more passengers heading towards Central on the Hong Kong Island line.

At about 8.50am, the protesters who blocked the train doors at Tiu Keng Leng Station started heading towards North Point on the Island Line.

Services between Causeway Bay station and Tai Koo station were suspended due to a number of incidents involving train door obstructions, MTR said on its website. Other trains on the Island Line, which runs straight through the financial district on Hong Kong Island,  are running on five-minute intervals, it said.

A similar campaign was carried out last Wednesday at Admiralty station, also during morning rush hour, causing train delays of as long as 18 minutes.

Protesters were angry at Beijing’s warning on Monday that “if Hong Kong continues to be chaotic, the whole society will have to pay the price”.

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) under China’s State Council accused those who had attacked government offices of “evil and criminal acts”, and said these “horrendous incidents” had caused serious damage to the city’s rule of law, economy and its international image.

It was the first such briefing in Beijing and was seen as an attempt by China to make its official position over the worsening political crisis in Hong Kong known.

HKMAO spokesman Yang Guang said at the press conference: “The Special Administrative Region government and the people should find effective ways to promote economic development, improve people’s livelihood and especially help young people to solve the practical problems of housing, education and employment.”

He added that the Chinese government will work with the Hong Kong authorities in finding solutions.

Protest organizers rejected his remarks, calling the press conference a “waste of time”. Instead, the organizers repeated calls for Chief Executive Carrie Lam to set up an independent commission to look into allegations of police brutality during clashes with the protesters.

On Monday night, some protesters discussed on social media about organizing another sit-in at the airport, following a similar demonstration at the airport’s arrival hall last Saturday.

They also talked about blocking major roads in the city, including Nathan Road, Gloucester Road and the Island Eastern Corridor, during morning rush hour. They planned to stop their cars in the middle of the road and pretend their vehicles had broken down, South China Morning Post reported.

There were also fears that rail workers would stage a strike on Tuesday after some MTR staff said on a discussion forum on Monday night that they would call a strike to express their dissatisfaction with the management’s handling of the July 21 attacks at Yuen Long station.

On July 21, a group of white-shirted men armed with sticks and metal bars beat commuters at Yuen Long station, including those returning from a protest in the city centre. More than 40 people were injured in the incident.

Civil servants plan to hold an assembly on Friday night, with organizers saying it is aimed at mending the rift between the government and citizens.

Millions have taken part in street protests for the past two months against a now-suspended extradition Bill that would have allowed criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be sent to China to face trial. Protesters said that the legal system in China is not transparent and fear that extradited suspects would not get a fair trial there. They also think the extradition Bill violates the “one country, two systems” arrangement for Hong Kong after the British handover in 1997.

Fierce clashes between protesters and police broke out last Saturday and Sunday for the eighth consecutive weekend as the demonstrations grew increasingly violent.

What began as a movement to oppose the extradition law has taken on broader demands. They include the resignation of Mrs Lam, calls for full democracy and an independent inquiry into what some say has been excessive police force against protesters.

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TAGS: Asia, Hong Kong, Public Transport, Train
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