Union warns of further strike as calm descends on Hong Kong after Monday chaos

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

HONG KONG - Even as calm once again descends on the city after Monday's (Aug 5) 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 on Tuesday, as transport services largely returned to normal and the commute for most people was mostly smooth.

The government said on Tuesday that while train services mostly resumed, 96 buses had to change routes and 70 of the 200 traffic lights damaged during the unrest were not fixed as at 2.30pm.

Madam Kitty Chu, 51, said her commute returned 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've inconvenienced me and I truly dislike that," she said.

"When their movement stops, and the economy is in the doldrums, their parents have no jobs and the protesters themselves cannot find work, there will be no future for anyone, especially when the parents work so hard to send them to school and they get arrested."

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 yes, it will be a pain."

The Hong Kong International Airport moved to ease the backlog of passengers affected by Monday's strike. Local 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 experienced since mass protests against a controversial extradition Bill escalated in early June.

 
 
 
 

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

Superintendent John Tse on Tuesday said 148 people aged between 13 and 63 years - 95 men and 53 women - were arrested on Monday, the highest daily figure since protests escalated in June.

About 800 tear gas rounds were fired during Monday's dispersal move, a tad short of the 1,000 rounds fired in the past two months. The police also discharged 140 rubber bullets and 20 sponge rounds. 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 outside, throwing bricks, blocking entrances and breaking windows," he said.

"Officers' quarters were also damaged. This is a direct challenge to the rule of law. The protesters have also attacked people who differ from them, including some drivers who were either beaten up or tied up with cable ties."

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".

"I'm saddened by the actions. The extradition Bill is over. Now we are facing a security issue and we need to say no to violence. We need to stop and think. There are other ways to solve the unhappiness with the government," Mr Cheung said.

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

In addition, Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU) chairwoman Carol Ng, who helped organise Monday's citywide strike, told local broadcaster RTHK that more action might be ahead.

"If there is still no proper response from the government and provided different platforms in the movement discuss further non-violent ways... I believe it is possible to have another strike," said Ms Ng on Tuesday.

The CTU believes about 350,000 people took part in Monday's strike, of which around 290,000 attended rallies in different locations while the rest did not go to work.

Earlier on Tuesday, a group of protesters held a briefing to refute Chief Executive Carrie Lam's statement that the protests have hit Hong Kong's economy.

A protester who identified himself as Jerry Chan said: "There's a lack of direct connection between the slowing down of the economy in the second quarter and the protests. The escalation of the protests did not occur until June the 9th.

"While only a minority of shops in the affected areas were closed early to avoid the protests, the impact of such was negligible in comparison to the overall size of the Hong Kong economy."

The group pressed for five key demands, including the full withdrawal of the highly contentious extradition Bill and an independent probe into allegations of police brutality.

Public confidence among Hongkongers in the police plunged to a new low following the Yuen Long attacks on July 21, when a group of white-clad armed men attacked not only people in black tops but also other passengers. Some members of the public are upset that the police failed to respond to calls for help on time.

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

This came after black-clad protesters marching in King's Road on Monday night clashed with an armed group in scenes reminiscent of the Yuen Long attacks.

Videos circulating on social media show protesters fighting the smaller group of armed men with sticks, traffic cones and umbrellas.