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Protesters must not disrupt airport, subway

By Gu Mengyan, Chen Zimo and Sophie He in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2019-09-18 10:22
Taxi drivers in Hong Kong place Chinese national flags on their cars on Friday. [Photo provided to China Daily]
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Blocking transportation links to Hong Kong International Airport violates a court injunction barring protesters from impeding airport operations, and can result in contempt of court lawsuits, authorities said on Friday.

They made the announcement as the High Court of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on Friday extended an interim injunction that bans protesters from impeding airport operations.

The judgment was made amid repeated calls on social media by anti-government groups to mobilize people to deliberately overwhelm airport railways, airport buses, private cars and other means of transportation to and from the airport to disrupt the normal operations of the airport this weekend.

The injunction, originally valid from Aug 14 through Friday, is meant to prevent protesters from assembling at the Hong Kong airport, one of the world's busiest transportation hubs. The injunction was issued after escalating violence during protests disrupted airport operations and led to the cancellation of numerous flights.

Judge Wilson Chan of the Court of First Instance of the High Court said on Friday in the judgment that while disturbances at the airport had seemingly subsided after the issuance of the interim injunction order on Aug 13, there is evidence of continued threats to the airport during this weekend, including repeated calls on social media to obstruct access control points to prevent passengers from entering the airport.

"Given the continuing threat of disturbances at the airport, I have no hesitation in continuing the order to maintain the status quo until trial or further court order," said the judgment.

"The balance of convenience is strongly in favor of continuing the order," the judgement said, stressing that "the smooth running of the airport is of crucial significance to Hong Kong, in particular the security and safety of its residents and travelers, its commercial interests as well as its international reputation".

In a statement published in several local newspapers on Friday, Airport Authority Hong Kong appealed to young people not to participate in or support acts that disrupt airport services or otherwise undermine the reputation of the airport.

Tens of thousands of workers earn their living from airport-related activities including aviation, tourism, logistics and trade, said the authority.

"Blocking roads and railway links to the airport is also regarded as unlawfully and willfully obstructing or interfering with the proper use of the airport," said Lau Wing-kei, deputy district commander of the Airport District. He warned at a police news briefing on Friday afternoon that anyone who violates the injunction could be sued for contempt of court.

Frank Chan Fan, secretary for transport and housing, also reminded the public not to violate the injunction.

On Thursday, seven civil aviation trade unions in Hong Kong issued a joint statement that strongly condemned the demonstrators' attempts to continue disturbances at the airport during the coming weekend and criticized the demonstrators for damaging the livelihoods of so many airport employees.

On Friday, Hong Kong's MTR Corp again condemned all acts of violence and illegal activities by protesters.

MTR Corp said Friday night it obtained the interim injunction from the High Court to restrain people from interfering or damaging operation at all stations and trains on its railway network, including the West Kowloon high-speed rail station.

The injunction will be effective until next June 30.

"We support proper enforcement of the law against these illegal activities and reserve the right to take suitable legal actions and seek suitable legal relief from the court including, if appropriate, injunctions to ensure that the safe and proper operation and use of our network can be assured," it said.

Foreign experts to join panel

Barrister Anthony Neoh, head of the Independent Police Complaints Council, Hong Kong's police watchdog, said on Friday that it will invite overseas scholars and specialists to study the recent protests in the city and the police's handling of them. The public has been calling for a thorough investigation into the clashes between protesters and the police, and how police have responded to these incidents.

The council will invite experts from oversight bodies in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada to form a panel of international experts. The candidates have extensive experience in researching crowd behavior, public order and police actions, according to the council.

The panel will join the assessment and make subsequent recommendations to ensure the objectivity of the probe. The list of panel members will be announced within 10 days, the council said.

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