Economy

Hong Kong airport on alert ahead of fresh wave of protests

Hong Kong airport on alert ahead of fresh wave of protests

Fresh protests are being reported from Hong Kong airport. The protests, however, were not abating, and more are planned for this weekend, including at the airport, where protesters holding signs staged a sit-in at the arrival and departure halls Friday.

In a statement, China's foreign ministry said it had lodged "stern representations" with the consulate over the meeting, demanding that Washington "immediately make a clean break from anti-China forces who stir up trouble in Hong Kong". They said they were considering applications for weekend marches elsewhere.

The protests were triggered by a controversial bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where the Communist party controls the courts, but have since evolved into a broader pro-democracy movement.

"No rioters, only tyranny", the demonstrators chanted as they began a three-day action - the latest in a string of protests that have rocked the worldwide financial hub for more than two months.

Protesters sang "Do You Hear the People Sing?" from the musical Les Miserables and chanted: "Democracy now" and "Hong Kongers, add oil!" - a popular exhortation in Cantonese.

Protesters also want direct election of the city's leader and an investigation into alleged police brutality towards demonstrators.

Why were people so angry about the extradition bill? Meanwhile police have violently clashed directly with protesters, repeatedly firing teargas and rubber bullets.

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While the airport appeared to be operating normally, extra identification checks were put in place for both travelers and staff, and airlines were advising passengers to arrive earlier than usual for check-in.

A similar airport protest on 26 July ended peacefully, and there was no indication on Friday that police planned to use force.

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"I think the majority of tourists are excited about the movement, and it's great to see it, to be a part of a historic moment", says Kirsten Weymar, 47, who was transiting through Hong Kong on a return trip to NY.

The travel industry accounts for 4.5 percent of the financial hub's economy and employs about 2500,000 people, or about 7 percent of the total working population.

The impact could be as bad or worse than occurred during the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, Travel Industry Council chairman Jason Wong Chun-tat was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post.

Global Affairs Canada had previously advised visitors and Canadians living in Hong Kong to take "normal security precautions", but on Thursday said it is recommending travellers "exercise a high degree of caution when traveling to Hong Kong due to ongoing large-scale demonstrations and potential violence".

Wong said cancellations could see hotel revenues in August drop by 40 percent against the same period a year ago.

Elsie Leung, a former justice secretary, said she felt that even if the PLA were deployed it would not conflict with Hong Kong's "one country, two systems" by which it has been governed since 1997.

Protests have continued in Hong Kong for nine weeks, first over a since-suspended bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, and later expanding to calls for greater democracy.

The city's lawyers fear the justice department's prosecutions of arrested protesters are taking on an increasingly political slant with over 500 arrests, many charged with rioting, an offence that carries a 10-year jail term.

Information is strictly censored in China, and many state-media outlets have painted a picture of protesters "destroying" the city - a tactic aimed at fanning public anger against the demonstrators.