Protests disrupt Hong Kong work day as leader vows to remain

| | Hong Kong
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Protests disrupt Hong Kong work day as leader vows to remain

Monday, 05 August 2019 | PTI | Hong Kong

Protests disrupt Hong Kong work day as leader vows to remain

Protesters filled public parks and squares in several Hong Kong districts on Monday in a general strike staged on a weekday to draw more attention to their demands, including that the semi-autonomous Chinese territory's leader resign.

Police again deployed tear gas in the Wong Tai Sin district, the scene of clashes with protesters over the weekend.

At the legislative complex, other protesters spray-painted "Dog officials" and pasted yellow banners on the gates opposing an extradition bill that originally sparked more than two months of demonstrations. They painted "Revolution of our Times" on one side of the building's exterior.

Police responded with tear gas after protesters took over a major road outside the main government office, threw eggs and bricks at the building and punctured large water-filled barriers set up by police to keep them away.

The general strike led to more than 200 flight cancellations at the city's airport and protesters disrupted subway service during the morning commute.   Nevertheless, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam maintained that she has no plans to resign in the face of the turbulent pro-democracy movement.

Hong Kong is on "the verge of a very dangerous situation," Lam said.      She said current protests were operating with "ulterior motives" that threaten Hong Kong's prosperity and security.

"I don't think at this point in time, resignation of myself or some of my colleagues would provide a better solution," Lam said at a news conference.

The strike is the latest development in a summer of fiery demonstrations that began in early June against proposed extradition legislation that would have allowed some criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China to stand trial.

While the government has since suspended the bill, protesters have pressed on with broader calls for it to be scrapped entirely, along with democratic reforms including the dissolution of the current legislature and an investigation into alleged police brutality.

A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 under the framework of "one country, two systems," which promised the city certain democratic freedoms not afforded to the mainland. But some Hong Kong residents feel that Beijing has been increasingly encroaching on their freedoms.

Protesters snarled the Monday morning rush hour by blocking train and platform doors, preventing subway and commuter rail trains from leaving their stations.

More than 200 flights out of Hong Kong have been canceled after a large number of airport employees called in sick in apparent participation in the general strike, Hong Kong media reported. Public broadcaster RTHK said Cathay Pacific and other domestic carriers such as Hong Kong Airlines were the most affected. Airport express train service was also suspended.

The citywide strike and demonstrations in seven Hong Kong districts followed a weekend of street clashes between protesters and riot police.

At a daily briefing, a police spokeswoman said 420 protesters have been arrested since June 9, the date of a massive march that drew more than 1 million people and ushered in the protest movement.

Those held, who range in age from 14 to 76, face charges including rioting, unlawful assembly, possessing offensive weapons and assaulting officers and obstructing police operations, the spokeswoman, Yolanda Yu Hoi-kwan, told reporters.

She said violence has been escalating, with protesters using gasoline bombs and fire, including sending a trolley full of burning trash hurtling toward officers.

Senior Superintendent Kong Wing-cheung of the Police Public Relations Branch said the police are fully supported by the government and there will be no need to deploy China's military to help maintain order. He said Lam and other officials from her administration have stated the same on multiple occasions.

"I personally believe there won't be any chance to deploy the (People's Liberation Army)," Kong told reporters at a daily press briefing.

Speculation of PLA intervention was fuelled in part by a slick publicity video it released last week showing troops firing tear gas and dealing with a mock street demonstration.

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