A day of planned protests across Hong Kong that focuses on disrupting the airport has started as travellers prepare for the worst.
Demonstrators joined hands along a major Kowloon thoroughfare and others gathered at a shopping centre to kick-start Sunday’s anti-government demonstrations.
They came ahead of the proposed targeting of Hong Kong International Airport, under a “stress test” designed to disrupt travel to the air hub.
There is a strong police presence at the airport with at least six police vans, including unmarked vehicles, parked near the entrance of the departure hall at the airport. Two armoured vehicles also stopped briefly there.
Security at Hong Kong station, which serves the Airport Express, has been stepped up with two dozen officers and riot police patrolling the area.
Before noon on Sunday, some travellers feared major disruption and headed to the airport at least 12 hours before their flight was due to take-off.
Cindy Tam, 50, who is sending her daughter to school in London, was already at Hong Kong station on Saturday morning preparing to board the Airport Express ahead of their midnight flight.
“Of course we are worried,” Tam said. “We don't know what the black-shirts will do, whether they will block roads or the Airport Express. So we could only leave home early.”
Tam said the protests over the weekend had been “very annoying”.
Jason Yip, 25, a college lecturer who was waving off a friend, did not mind the inconvenience because he said protesters’ demands were more important.
“It's OK even if my friend can't catch the flight, because the worst outcome is a delay in sightseeing,” says Yip.
Saturday’s human chain event, which was organised as a religious meeting and ended at 9.30am, was held in support of the five core demands of the campaign sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill.
“This is a peaceful way to make our demands,” said a 38-year-old church-goer who gave his name as Joey C, referring to the human chain protest.
Sunday’s planned protests follow a day of violence and chaos in northwestern parts of Hong Kong, with some extreme demonstrators straying from an authorised march in Tuen Mun and trashing Light Rail facilities, setting up barricades and throwing rocks at police
In Yuen Long, there were clashes with police, who fired tear gas. Some protesters threw petrol bombs.
Anti-government protests sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill are in their 16th consecutive weekend.
The government promised on September 4 to fully withdraw the bill, which would have allowed fugitives to be transferred to mainland China for trial.
The withdrawal, which acceded to one of the protesters’ five demands, has failed to satisfy them.
They also want an independent investigation into what they call excessive use of the police force, amnesty to be granted to those arrested during protests and universal suffrage.
The transport “stress test” focusing on the airport has already impacted travel on Sunday.
The Airport Express rail link will only service Hong Kong station on Sunday, skipping Kowloon, Tsing Yi and AsiaWorld-Expo stations from 9.00am until close of service, the Airport Authority announced on Saturday night.
In-town check-in in Kowloon is also suspended all day.
A sign has appeared at the airport saying all S route shuttle bus services for the Lantau hub are “currently suspended”, with passengers advised to find other ways to leave the airport.
Bus operator Citybus said all airport-bound E routes departing from downtown from 10.30am would terminate at Tung Chung. Passengers heading for the airport can use Cityflyer A routes.
The move came in anticipation of large-scale disruption of travel links, with a potential for the return of tactics deployed on September 1 that clogged highways and halted services connecting to the airport for hours.
Airport-linked Tsing Yi Station and the adjacent Maritime Square shopping centre were named as specific locations for afternoon protest activities, while some Hongkongers planned to use bicycles to deliver supplies to protesters who were blocking airport access along long stretches of the highway.
Special protocols were rolled out at the airport, including the closure of one car park and the implementation of “access control” measures, with only those with valid air tickets or boarding passes allowed to enter the terminal buildings. On Sunday afternoon, an armoured vehicle was seen parked at the Tsing Ma toll plaza.
Later in the day, the driver of a small van was seen handcuffed and taken into a police vehicle after a search at the toll plaza. Items in the van included several umbrellas and a carton of bottled water. Police seized the umbrellas.
The Airport Authority also warned that fake travel documents could be considered forgery.
The Civil Aviation Department on Friday put out a warning for the public not to interfere with planes by operating drones or transmitting radio waves.
A department spokesman said the statement was made in response to online discussion about using drones to block air traffic and cause disruption to scheduled flights.
Pro-establishment lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, who led a call to clean-up around anti-government “Lennon Walls” in the city on Saturday, was expected to be on the scene to monitor airport traffic.
Online plans to disrupt mass transport were not limited to the airport, with calls for a citywide disruption of travel infrastructure.
Meanwhile, about 600 protesters gathered from about noon on Sunday in New Town Plaza shopping centre in Sha Tin, chanting slogans “Hong Kong people, add oil” and “Liberate Hong Kong; revolution of our times”.
A group of protesters on bikes started their journey from Tsuen Wan Park to gather information on police whereabouts and transportation to send to front line demonstrators.
Video: SCMP/Karen Yeung pic.twitter.com/9Hzqgnwl6L
— SCMP Hong Kong (@SCMPHongKong) September 22, 2019
At Tsuen Wan Park on Yeung Uk Road, a group of 15 cyclists set off towards the main highways to gather information on police whereabouts and the situation. They intend to send supplies to frontline protesters.
One of the riders, who only gave his name as “Mr K”, said: “On bikes, we can get around traffic in the most effective manner, and get information and resources to frontline protesters.”
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