Over 1,000 demonstrators are currently staging a sit-in at the arrival hall of Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) in protest against the recent violence in the Yuen Long district of Hong Kong.
Flight attendants and airport staff have begun a planned 11-hour protest at HKIA to call on the government to account for a violent attack on residents by suspected ‘triad’ gang members, possibly linked to mainland China, last week.
The latest protest comes as a number of countries – including Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Ireland – have issued travel advisories for Hong Kong.
The aviation staff were joined by demonstrators dressed in black, the unofficial colour of the nearly two-month-long protest movement, who filled the airport’s arrival hall on Friday afternoon.
The peaceful protest, that was given a green light by police, saw protesters gathering at around 3pm Hong Kong time, sitting on the ground chanting “Free Hong Kong” as shocked travellers walked through the terminal.
Some protesters were dressed in helmets with many holding up signs calling on the government to withdraw the extradition Bill completely.
A group of students held signs in English, Japanese, and Korean calling on “international friends for help standing up to the Hong Kong government”.
The protesters also called for an investigation into the police’s apparently slow response after pro-democracy demonstrators and commuters were attacked by thugs at a Mass Transit Railway (MTR) station in Yuen Long last Sunday.
Protesters held up signs designed to look like customs notices and played audio messages resembling in-flight safety instructions.
The protesters also handed out pamphlets to arriving passengers showing a map listing areas of the city that have since turned into protest hotspots, including the Central Government Office, Tamar Park and Mongkok.
“Here are some sites that best represent Hong Kong, where you can experience the determination of the anti-extradition Bill movement,” one such pamphlet reportedly read.
Extra staff, including security personnel have been deployed by the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK) protesters rallied over the polarising extradition Bill on Friday afternoon.
“In view of the public assembly held at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) today, the Airport Authority (AA) Hong Kong and Airport Security have deployed extra manpower,” a spokesperson for the authority says.
“Measures have also been implemented at the terminal to facilitate passengers and ensure smooth airport operations.”
The demonstration condemning the government and police, who have been accused of colluding with organised crime groups otherwise known as ‘triads’, to suppress protests, was also aimed at urging international visitors to pay attention to events in Hong Kong.
“The AA has activated the Airport Emergency Centre and has been working closely with its business partners to ensure normal airport operations,” the authority spokesperson adds.
“The world has been watching us in the past few weeks,” says Jeremy Tam, a former pilot and lawmaker who helped organise the protest with other aviation sector employees, according to a Channel News Asia report.
“We simply believe that the airport is the most direct way for all tourists to explain what is happening in Hong Kong.”
A petition has been circulating in Hong Kong with members of the public, tourists and pilots, flight attendants and other aviation workers signing in a bid to urge the Hong Kong government to prosecute the attackers in Yuen Long.
The Flight Attendants’ Union for Hong Kong’s main carrier Cathay Pacific had asked its members to “stand up for our human rights and be connected with the rest of the Hong Kongers” on its Facebook page.
On Friday, Reuters reported that it had obtained a recording from an official from China’s representative office calling on residents in Yuen Long to drive away protesters. “We won’t allow them to come to Yuen Long to cause trouble,” Li Jiyi, the director of the central government liaison’s local district office said at a banquet for villagers in the New Territories, according to Reuters.
Beijing has described the protests in Hong Kong as “intolerable” and has denied any involvement in the Yuen Log attacks.
Millions of Hong Kongers have taken to the streets in the last two months to protest against the controversial extradition Bill, which would have allowed extraditions to mainland China. But the protests are seen as a deeper discontent over what they see as Beijing’s erosion of Hong Kong freedoms that were guaranteed (until 2047), when Britain handed back the former colony to China
The city’s chief executive Carrie Lam has said the Bill was dead, but it has yet to be withdrawn. The protests have since evolved into a call for wider democratic reforms and the removal of Lam from her position.