Chinese state media accuses Hong Kong train company MTR of aiding protesters

Chinese state media accuses Hong Kong train company MTR of aiding protesters

Protesters at MTR station
Protesters jump over MTR gates as they move to another destination during the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong. (Photo: AP/Kin Cheung)

BEIIJING: China's state-run media have launched a co-ordinated attack on the company that runs Hong Kong's train network for its perceived support of protesters, echoing a campaign against Cathay Pacific.

As hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in the financial hub approach their third month of rallying around democratic reforms, Beijing has upped its rhetoric against the movement - and any organisation appearing to support it.

On Thursday (Aug 22), Chinese state-backed outlets accused Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (MTR) company of abetting protesters by offering them a free and "exclusive" train to escape police, after a sit-in to mark a mob attack by suspected triad gang members one month earlier.

"MTR operates exclusive train for violent protesters in Hong Kong, and free of charge," tweeted Chinese official news agency Xinhua in English.

Instead of cooperating with the police, the Hong Kong railway system helped protesters "escape", wrote the nationalist Global Times in a Chinese-language op-ed.

Hong Kong MTR protests
A protester blocks the MTR underground train from closing as protesters blocked the train doors at Fortress Hill station in Hong Kong in their efforts to disrupt the morning rush hour commute. (Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace)

READ: Hong Kong protesters clash with police at Yuen Long MTR station

READ: Hong Kong protesters plan airport 'stress test' to disrupt operations

The MTR "is telling Hong Kong society that radical demonstrators who have committed violent acts not only can avoid arrest by police but are ultimately able to enjoy free, special treatment," the paper added.

But the MTR Corporation - which the Hong Kong government remains a majority stakeholder in - said in a Thursday statement that the trains were meant to help stranded passengers.

To ensure the safety of travellers and staff, the MTR company said it had arranged for trains with passengers on board to avoid stopping at stations where there were "police actions to disperse the crowds".

A protester fires a nitrogen extinguisher during a stand off at Yuen Long MTR station
A protester fires a nitrogen extinguisher during a stand off at Yuen Long MTR station, the scene of an attack by suspected triad gang members a month ago, in Yuen Long, New Territories, Hong Kong, China Aug on 21, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

READ: Ongoing protests could drag down economies in both Hong Kong and China: Bank of East Asia

Empty trains, however, were also dispatched to pick up individuals who "might wish to leave stations as soon as possible," read the statement, which also condemned the vandalism of metro stops by some demonstrators.

'FOUR SINS'

The city's MTR Corporation is the latest company to feel the heat from Beijing's hardening rhetoric over more than two months of anti-government protests that have plunged Hong Kong into crisis.

Last week, Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific announced the shock resignation of its CEO after the carrier was excoriated by Beijing because some staff supported the protests.

During a general strike earlier this month, some of Cathay's 27,000-strong workforce joined in, including the union representing the airline's flight attendants.

READ: Cathay Pacific suspends pilot, fires 2 ground employees over Hong Kong protests

China reacted swiftly, with the country's aviation regulator demanding the airline prevent such staff from working on flights to the mainland or those routed through Chinese airspace.

China's aviation regulator has issued new rules requiring that Cathay Pacific submit lists of
China's aviation regulator has issued new rules requiring that Cathay Pacific submit lists of staff flying to the mainland or through its airspace and banning those involved with the Hong Kong protests (Photo: AFP/VIVEK PRAKASH)

READ: Unions urge Cathay Pacific to end 'white terror' after cabin crew union leader dismissed

State media also wrote a series of condemnations of Cathay, accusing it of not doing enough to rein in its workers.

"The four sins of Cathay Pacific Airlines," read one headline by the People's Daily, the main mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party.

Source: AFP/nr

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