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

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

Protests at Hong Kong airport last week descended into violence
Protests at Hong Kong airport last week descended into violence AFP/Manan VATSYAYANA

HONG KONG: Protesters in Hong Kong are planning a "stress test" of the airport on Saturday (Aug 24) as part of continued demonstrations.

"Go to the airport by different means, including MTR, airport bus, taxi, bike and private car to increase pressure on airport transport," protesters wrote online.

READ: Hong Kong students to boycott new term as protests continue

READ: Hong Kong court extends injunction order restricting protests at airport

According to a poster circulating on social media, the aim is to create a surge in traffic, preventing travellers from boarding their flights on time, causing delays or cancellations. 

The poster suggests that protesters "drag" their feet to be as slow as possible when taking public transport. 

Hong Kong's airport authority said on Thursday that it is "deeply concerned" about the planned protest, which includes plans to block roads leading to the airport. 

"The Airport Authority Hong Kong strongly advises that any person should not interfere with the normal operations of the airport nor passengers' journeys," a spokesperson said in response to CNA's queries. 

"Contingency measures" will be implemented if necessary, it said, without elaborating.

COURT EXTENDS INTERIM INJUNCTION

Hong Kong International Airport was hit by unprecedented flight disruptions last week as protesters staged a sit-in at one of the world's busiest aviation hub.  

All flights in and out of Hong Kong were cancelled on Aug 12, and operations resumed two days later. 

READ: Hong Kong airport cancels all flights on Monday due to protests

READ: Hong Kong airport protesters 'overstepped bottom line of a civilised society': Government

After the chaos, the airport authority obtained an interim injunction to stop people from "unlawfully and wilfully obstructing" airport operations.

On Thursday, the authority warned protesters that blocking roads leading to the airport might be regarded as "willfully obstructing or interfering with the proper use of the airport".

Hong Kong's High Court said on Friday it has extended the injunction, which requires public demonstrations to have the permission of authorities and is aimed at banning "those who want to deliberately obstruct or interfere with the normal use of the airport".

Pro-democracy protestors block a terminal entrance after a scuffle with police at Hong Kong's
Pprotesters block a terminal entrance after a scuffle with police at Hong Kong's international airport. (Photo: AFP/Manan VATSYAYANA)

The airport authority also published a half-page advertisement in major newspapers on Friday urging young people to "love Hong Kong" and said it opposed acts which "blocked and interfered with the operation of the airport". It said it would continue to work to maintain a smooth operation.

MORE PROTESTS PLANNED

Multiple protests are planned for Friday, including a march by accountants to government headquarters and a "Baltic Chain" event where protesters will join hands across different districts in the Chinese territory.

In 1989, an estimated 2 million people joined arms across three Baltic states in a protest against Soviet Union rule which became known as the Baltic Way or Baltic Chain.

"The Baltic Way brought the world’s attention to their cause and inspired following generations," the rally organisers said in a statement. "We plead that you will not look away at this crucial time. Stand with Hong Kong."

Weeks of protests are already exacting a toll on Hong Kong's economy and tourism, with the financial hub on the verge of its first recession in a decade.

Bookings on Australia's Qantas airline to Hong Kong have fallen by about 10 per cent because of the protests and it plans to cut capacity by 7 per cent in the next few months by using smaller planes, chief executive Alan Joyce told reporters.

READ: Cathay Pacific caught in crossfire of Hong Kong's crisis

Corporates including big banks and property developers have called for a restoration of law and order while exhibitors are seeing widespread cancellations of events.

In the most recent case, international jewellers have sought the rescheduling of a huge trade fair with up to 40 per cent of exhibitors threatening to pull out.

Protesters are showing no signs of letting up. 

On Wednesday, hundreds staged a raucous sit-in inside Yuen Long MTR station – where a mob attack last month left 45 people hospitalised – angry that nobody has yet been prosecuted for the violence.

READ: Australia sees rush of Hong Kong millionaires amid unrest

Wednesday's standoff stopped short of recent intense clashes, including the storming of the legislature and occupation of the airport, with police refrained from using tear gas or attempting to storm protesters' lines. Police said they arrested two men for unlawful assembly.

Anger has erupted in Hong Kong over the last few months over a now-suspended Bill that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China for trial. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam later declared the Bill "dead", but stopped short of withdrawing it.

But protests have billowed out into a wider pro-democracy movement, which has seen the financial centre's airport closed, violent street clashes with police and million-strong marches through city streets.

Source: CNA/Agencies/aa(gs)

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