Hong Kong Train Disruptions Show Protests Becoming Daily Affair

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Hong Kong Train Disruptions Show Protests Becoming Daily Affair(Bloomberg) -- Fresh train disruptions by Hong Kong protesters Tuesday show how unrest once confined to weekend marches through downtown streets is spreading across the Asian financial hub and affecting daily life.Train services were slowed on the centrally located Island Line and the Kwun Tong Line across Victoria Harbor after black-clad protesters blocked doors and requested emergency assistance during the morning rush. There was yelling and confusion as commuters found themselves stuck in large crowds on subway platforms for the second time in less than a week.Although rail operator MTR Corp. said trains were resuming their normal schedules as of 11:30 a.m., such problems are expected to spread as protesters try to keep their grievances in the headlines and force a response by the city’s China-appointed government. The incident follows a weekend of rallies that saw a peaceful sit-in at Asia’s busiest international airport and sometimes rowdy mass protests that prompted police to fire tear gas in residential areas.The movement has proved surprisingly resilient more than eight weeks after as many as 1 million people took to the streets to oppose Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s now-suspended proposal to allow extraditions to mainland China. Authorities in Beijing have so far maintained their support for Lam, who has rejected demands that she resign, formally withdraw the bill and appoint an independent inquiry into the police’s use of force.Lam’s approval rating slipped another 2 percentage points over the past month to a record low 21%, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, formerly the HKU Public Opinion Programme. The share of people satisfied with the local government’s performance remained at an all-time 18%, unchanged from the previous survey.Authorities were set to charge 44 out of 49 people arrested during Sunday’s clashes with police with rioting, the South China Morning Post reported Tuesday, citing an unidentified police source. The violence had erupted as officers fired volleys of tear gas at demonstrators in Sai Ying Pun, a residential and business area where the Chinese government’s liaison office is located. The people were expected to be brought to court on Wednesday, the newspaper said.China warned Monday that political unrest in the former British colony had gone “far beyond” peaceful protest, underscoring concern of more direct intervention. The demonstrations ultimately stem from anxiety that China has been eroding the rights and freedoms promised to Hong Kong before the end of colonial rule in 1997.Read more about the protests’ latest impact on Hong Kong stocksDuring Tuesday’s protests, services at the Lam Tin, Yau Tong and Tiu Keng Leng stations were suspended. At Tin Hau station on the Island Line, dozens of passengers were queuing up for refunds as train services were suspended.MTR Corp. shares added 0.1% as of 2.47 p.m. in Hong Kong trading, erasing earlier losses.“We understand some people want to express their view but we regret that their actions affected train services and other passengers,” Alan Cheng, MTR’s chief of operating, told reporters. He said platform safety devices had been activated 76 times during the morning, while train emergency buttons were triggered another 47.Protesters argue that they’ve been driven to guerrilla tactics because the former British colony’s unelected government is ignoring historic protests and the police are withholding protest permits and increasing their use of force. Since last month, different groups in the largely leaderless movement have surrounded police headquarters, mobbed government buildings and ransacked the city’s legislature.“Every confrontation between the protesters and the police has exacerbated their mutual hostility,” Hong Kong political commentator Joseph Cheng told Bloomberg Television in an interview on Tuesday. “It is difficult that there are no solutions in sight, no reconciliation process going on and it has become a test of wills.”While such tactics risk alienating the general public and causing further damage to the economy, the movement has also received support from the business community. The American Chamber of Commerce’s Hong Kong chapter on Monday urged an “internationally credible” independent inquiry into all aspects of the protest movement, saying action was needed to preserve the city’s strength as a global financial center.Earlier: AmCham Urges Hong Kong Action to Quell Growing Business ConcernsThe city’s otherwise model railway system has born the brunt of several recent incidents, including shocking mob attacks last week on protesters and other train passengers at a railway station in the northern suburb of Yuen Long. Protesters subsequently decided to disrupt train services to highlight the slow police response to the incident.The rail operator on Monday pledged a review of its safety procedures, a move the South China Morning Post newspaper said was prompted by strike threats and internal anger over criticism of a female train driver related to the Yuen Long incident. Last week, MTR chairman Rex Auyeung Pak-kuen endorsed calls for an inquiry into police action.“Hong Kongers only want police to do their jobs fearlessly in an unbiased manner and not serve their bosses in Beijing,” Max Chung, the organizer of the Yuen Long march, said Tuesday night after being released on bail. Chung had been arrested for inciting others to participate in an unlawful assembly, the city’s Now TV reported Sunday.(Updates with Max Chung comment in final paragraph.)\--With assistance from Sheryl Tian Tong Lee, Fion Li, Dominic Lau, Sofia Horta e Costa and Colin Keatinge.To contact the reporters on this story: Iain Marlow in Hong Kong at imarlow1@bloomberg.net;Simon Fuller in Hong Kong at sfuller37@bloomberg.net;Natalie Lung in Hong Kong at flung6@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Karen LeighFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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