Calm returns to HK after unrest but union warns of more strikes

There are already calls for people to join rallies planned for every weekend this month.
There are already calls for people to join rallies planned for every weekend this month.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Even as calm descends on the city after Monday's unprecedented unrest, when nearly 150 arrests were made, the main union body has warned that there could be another strike.

It was back to business yesterday as transport services largely returned to normal and the commute for most people was smooth.

The government said that while train services mostly resumed, 70 of the 200 traffic lights damaged had not been fixed as of 2.30pm.

Madam Kitty Chu, 51, said her commute was back to normal, but she now objects to the anti-government protesters. "Yesterday, I was going back from work and I had to wait 30 minutes at Lam Tim station. They have inconvenienced me, and I truly dislike that," she said.

Ms Tan Weiru, who lives on Lamma Island, chose to work from home on Monday and Tuesday even though ferry services to Hong Kong island were running.

Ms Tan, 31, who runs a co-working space, said: "If disruption keeps happening, then it will be a pain."

Hong Kong International Airport moved to ease the backlog of passengers affected by Monday's strike. Airlines had cancelled more than 200 flights on Monday after pilots, air traffic controllers and flight attendants called in sick in a show of support.

Monday's act of civil disobedience in at least 10 districts was the largest the city had seen since mass protests against a controversial extradition Bill escalated in early June.

Officers in riot gear spent most of the day battling protesters, who paralysed traffic with makeshift barriers and besieged police stations, triggering rounds of tear gas.

 
 
 

Superintendent John Tse said yesterday that 148 people aged between 13 and 63 - 95 men and 53 women - were arrested on Monday.

About 800 tear gas rounds were fired during Monday's dispersal move, just short of the 1,000 rounds fired in the past two months. The police also discharged 140 rubber bullets and 20 sponge rounds, while seven officers were injured.

Secretary for Security John Lee described Monday's unrest as "the most serious, widespread and unparalleled violence".

"More than 15 police stations were under attack with protesters on a rampage, setting fire, throwing bricks, blocking entrances and breaking windows," he said. "Officers' quarters were also damaged."

The city's No. 2 official, Mr Matthew Cheung, urged protesters to put an end to the destructive campaigns, saying "it pushes Hong Kong to dangerous territory".

There are already calls for people to join rallies planned for every weekend this month.

In addition, Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU) chairman Carol Ng, who helped organise Monday's citywide strike, said more action might be ahead: "If there is still no proper response from the government... I believe it is possible to have another strike."

The CTU believes about 350,000 people took part in Monday's strike, when around 290,000 attended rallies and the rest did not go to work.

Protesters have five key demands, including the full withdrawal of the contentious extradition Bill and to have an independent probe into allegations of police brutality.

Relations between protesters and the police plunged to a new low following the Yuen Long attacks on July 21, when armed men attacked not only people in black tops, but also other rail passengers.

Meanwhile, some shops in North Point were reportedly shuttered yesterday while workers were told to go home early in anticipation of a revenge attack, local media reported.

This came after black-clad protesters clashed with an armed group on Monday, in scenes reminiscent of Yuen Long. Videos on social media showed protesters fighting the smaller group of armed men with sticks, traffic cones and umbrellas.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2019, with the headline 'Calm returns to HK after unrest but union warns of more strikes'. Print Edition | Subscribe