A Hong Kong railway station which has become the latest flashpoint in a city bracing for its 14th straight weekend of protests has been closed down, while at the airport, crowds at the bus terminal are asked to leave under an injunction.
Shortly before 4.30pm on Saturday, 10 protesters had gathered at Prince Edward MTR station, with the rail giant announcing the site’s closure after a risk assessment. The MTR Corporation also said other stations might be closed later in the day.
Douglas Tsang Tsz-ming, 30, one of the protesters at Prince Edward, said he was there over the August 31 incident, in which police chased demonstrators into the station and went after them on trains, resulting in injuries. Protesters have accused police of indiscriminately beating commuters, while the force said its officers were targeting those who had changed out of their trademark black outfits to blend in with passengers.
Tsang said: “That’s why we call for the MTR Corp to release the CCTV tapes [at Prince Edward station] to the public to disclose the truth.”
The station’s closure on Saturday also came after four people had reportedly submitted a letter to its manager on the same matter.
Timothy Lee, a 25-year-old protester, said the MTR was a public transport system and a listed company, so it had a responsibility to release the footage.
“We have no choice but to patronise their railway services so we deserve the right to know what happened,” he said.
At the airport, authorities were taking no chances, even with operations there still running smoothly as scores of police officers kept a close watch over the area and its transport links.
Airport security personnel would only allow those with travel documents to enter terminals, while dozens of officers patrolled inside.
At around 3pm, an Airport Authority worker urged more than 10 people sitting by the road at the bus station to leave, warning they were at risk of breaching an injunction.
Clerk Wing Tse, 29, was one of them. She said she was there because she dated someone who worked at the airport. “The benches here are limited. Our bus only comes at an hour interval,” she said, adding that she still had 30 minutes to wait.
Winnie Lok, 20, who said she was just resting because she was not feeling well after seeing off a friend, was told she could be prosecuted for loitering.
“I wasn’t doing anything. I was just sitting here,” she said, describing the encounter as “white terror”. “I’m scared. I think there is no reason [we should have to leave].”
She later left at police’s request.
By 4pm, dozens of people had gathered at the airport bus station again but some said they were just travellers and not protesters.
Police were also checking some young people’s bags at Hong Kong MTR station before they boarded the Airport Express. Officers also boarded buses at the Lantau Link Toll Plaza to carry out inspections.
As Hong Kong braced for another weekend of protests, the security arrangements at the airport were ramped up to avoid a repeat of the scenes last Sunday when demonstrators caused chaos by blocking access routes and forcing travellers to walk part of the way.
Stijn Bracke, who was on holiday in the city, had arrived 12 hours early for his midnight flight to Copenhagen. The software engineer, who was returning to his native Belgium via the Danish capital, was largely supportive of the protests, which he saw as a fight for democracy and the future of Hong Kong, although he sympathised with businesses that had suffered disruptions.
“I had a great holiday so coming here a bit early doesn’t bother me that much,” he said around noon.
American couple Derek Kotaroski and Nohelia Colon Vargas, who were on their honeymoon, were worried about their 3.45pm flight to Bali being delayed or cancelled.
Kotaroski, a sales manager, said the protesters were hurting their own cause by disrupting people’s travel plans.
“They have the right to protest but they should stay away from the airport,” he said. “We have nothing to do with it, right?”
They have the right to protest but they should stay away from the airport
Derek Kotaroski, traveller
Even though the city’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor had on Wednesday announced she would formally withdraw the extradition bill that had sparked the city’s protests crisis, protesters vowed to keep their fight going until all five of their key demands, including a judge-led independent inquiry to probe police handling of previous months’ protests, were met.
The MTR Corp announced on Friday that trains on the Airport Express rail link would only travel from Hong Kong station to the airport – bypassing Kowloon and Tsing Yi stations, and skipping AsiaWorld-Expo from 9am on Saturday.
The pre-emptive measures came as protesters made plans to ditch their trademark black T-shirts and gear to better blend in with travellers, and forge boarding passes to get into the airport.
According to the Airport Authority, all route “E” buses heading to the airport or AsiaWorld-Expo would terminate in Tung Chung from 10.30am. Buses travelling from the airport or AsiaWorld-Expo to the city centre would run as normal.
At Hong Kong MTR station, police searched the bag of tertiary student William Lee and found a pair of goggles, which he said were given to him by his family.
Outside the bus terminus for leaving the Hong Kong airport, three young people are being told to leave the area or they will be held in breach of the court injunction. #hongkongprotests
Video: SCMP/John Power pic.twitter.com/plN11H3qGQ
— SCMP Hong Kong (@SCMPHongKong) September 7, 2019
Lee said he was going to the airport with his friend, Jeffrey Leung, to take photos.
Asked why he chose to go to the airport when protests were planned in the area, he said: “I am a Hongkonger. I love to go around.”
The two insisted to reporters they had only joined peaceful and legal protests and police let them go.
Another 15-year-old, surnamed Ma, wearing a black T-shirt and a mask, also had his belongings inspected by police after he sat on a bench at the station. He said it made him feel uncomfortable, insisting he was just taking a rest before going to a church in Sai Wan Ho in the afternoon.
At nearby Tung Chung, riot police moved in at 4.40pm to disperse more than 100 protesters, who had gathered at the MTR station, chanting: “Liberate Hong Kong! Revolution of our times!”
Billy Cheng said he and his friends wanted to protest at the airport but could not get in without a boarding pass and thus came to Tung Chung. He demanded that the MTR release CCTV footage of what happened in Prince Edward station last Saturday, where protesters and police had clashed.
Separately, many masked protesters at MTR-run Telford Plaza in Kowloon Bay were walking around the mall, chanting the same slogan used in Tung Chung, after more than 60 people staged an earlier sit-in.
Protesters had warned that they would take action in the mall because they were angry at the MTR’s decision to let police enter its stations and arrest activists.
“We are just shopping, there is no destination,” one of the demonstrators claimed.
Among those at the earlier sit-in was Miu Ding, 26, who works at a hair salon. She usually only has one day a week off but had asked for more time over the past two months so she could take part in protests.
“My salary is cut because I’ve asked for too many days off,” she said. “I will just spend less and keep fighting. We won’t stop fighting until the five demands are met.”
“There is still one month to go before the bill is formally withdrawn and anything could happen. We don’t believe Carrie Lam at all.”
A mainland Chinese woman shouted at protesters, telling them they were just creating trouble.
Dozens of people also staged a sit-in at the MTR-run Citylink Plaza in Sha Tin.
Alvin, a senior student from an international school who declined to give his surname, said he came to the mall for a peaceful sit-in to express his discontent with the “government’s response to the bill”, which came “really, really late”, as well as to urge the MTR to release footage of the Prince Edward incident.
“We just want to express our thoughts and encourage others to join us,” he said.
“The protests [started] in June and now it’s September. We really think it’s overdue. A lot of other problems came up.”
More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong protests: Carrie Lam has ruled out commission of inquiry into police actions, so what can replace it and will it work?
- ‘Hongkongers, not expats’: the foreigners who say they have joined the protests out of a sense of responsibility to their adopted city
This article Prince Edward MTR station shut down as handful of protesters gather, while Hong Kong airport operator warns crowd at bus station to leave, citing court order first appeared on South China Morning Post