Hong Kong’s MTR shut down the Airport Express and Tung Chung lines on Sunday after protesters vandalised parts of the airport and Tung Chung station, leaving many stranded on Lantau Island as the night wore on.
Protesters planned a sit-in at the international airport in the afternoon in spite of a court injunction against protests at Chek Lap Kok.
The event quickly descended into clashes as protesters set up makeshift barricades outside entrances to stop riot police from advancing.
At 4:30pm, the MTR announced the closure of the entire Airport Express line, saying that persons had trespassed onto the tracks.
In the late afternoon, many protesters retreated from the airport to Tung Chung – a new town on Lantau Island – on foot.
Some demonstrators built barricades and lit a fire on Chek Lap Kok South Road to impede officers.
James, a 25-year-old who works in education, told HKFP that his group decided to depart from the airport due to its geographical location: “In the evening it’s dangerous, especially at the airport — it’s just a small island,” he said. “Police can come from the airport and Tung Chung, so it’s two-sided, they can attack from two sides. So it’s hard to defend yourself.”
In Tung Chung, the local MTR station again became a target, as turnstiles were damaged and slogans such as “Communist Party railway” were sprayed onto the walls. A Chinese flag was also taken down and burnt as protesters flooded the station with fire hoses and smashed windows.
The MTR shut down the Tung Chung line at 6pm.
As was the case on Saturday night, riot police stormed a train carriage. They conducted searches on the last train out of Lantau, leaving some commuters shaken.
One passenger told reporters: “If we go up [to the station lobby], we’re screwed, if we stay down here, we’re screwed as well… we’re just waiting to be screwed.”
On Saturday night, the rail operator made the unprecedented move of closing the entire Kwun Tong, Tsuen Wan, Island, South Island and Tseung Kwan O lines after protesters vandalised stations and police stormed train carriages.
“Violent protestors have committed destructive acts extensively inside the Tung Chung MTR station,” the police said in a 6pm statement.
The mostly government-owned transit firm has become a target of protester violence after it shut down train stations in the vicinity of protests beginning last week. Previously, it was criticised by Chinese state media for purportedly “assisting” protesters.
During Sunday, 25 departing flights and 16 arrivals to Hong Kong were cancelled, though some were cancelled before protests began. Most other flights remained on schedule amid heightened security.
Retreat from Lantau
Protesters who remained on Lantau were left stranded by the closures of two MTR lines as riot police sweept through Tung Chung on Sunday evening.
A large group decided to walk a 15km route along North Lantau Highway towards Tsing Ma Bridge amid torrential rain after the Observatory hoisted the Typhoon Signal 3.
Some were were able to board other public transport, or were picked up by sympathetic drivers.
Others decided to retreat by taking the ferries from Lantau Island.
However, at Central ferry pier, dozens of riot police conducted searches of young-looking passengers as they disembarked from ferries originating from different locations in Lantau.
The retreat continued late into Sunday night.
Protests against the ill-fated extradition bill – which would have allowed case-by-case fugitive transfers to China – are in their 13th week. Since June, large-scale peaceful protests have morphed into sometimes violent displays of dissent over Beijing’s encroachment, democracy, alleged police brutality, surveillance and other community grievances.
Saturday marked another escalation in the violence as demonstrators demanded a complete withdrawal of the bill, a fully independent probe into police behaviour, amnesty for those arrested, universal suffrage and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.”
A school strike has been planned for Monday, with police giving approval for the day-long sit-in gathering in Central.
HKers assemble. What ever it takes. Tomorrow is the day for our class boycott. pic.twitter.com/56Gge77jTJ
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 (@joshuawongcf) September 1, 2019
Additional reporting: Jennifer Creery.
Hong Kong Free Press relies on direct reader support. Help safeguard independent journalism and press freedom as we invest more in freelancers, overtime, safety gear & insurance during this summer’s protests. 10 ways to support us.