Hong Kong, 5 August 2019 (dpa/MIA) – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam warned that the city was risking its semi-autonomy from China on Monday as the effects of fresh anti-government protests and a strike were felt across the transit sector.
In a hastily scheduled meeting on Monday morning, Lam told reporters that nine consecutive weeks of protest had destabilized the city.
Many of the protesters, whom she characterized as largely violent, were about to “push Hong Kong to the verge of a very dangerous situation,” Lam said.
The situation was now threatening the former British colony’s status as a semi-autonomous city within China until 2047 under an arrangement known as “one country, two systems,” she continued.
“Those ulterior motives are going to destroy Hong Kong and risk ‘one country, two systems,’ to proceed with what they call ‘revolution,'” Lam said.
Protests began on June 9 against a now-suspended bill that would have allowed for the extradition of suspected criminals to mainland China. They have since escalated into an outpouring of anger against the Hong Konggovernment and Lam herself.
Lam has failed to meet any of the protesters’ demands including that she step down and form an independent commission to investigate brutality by police, whose actions she continued to defend to the media.
Lam did not respond directly to a question from dpa about the participation of thousands of civil servants in an unprecedented protest on Friday night, saying they had the right to “individual expression.”
Friday’s gathering in the financial district took place despite warnings from the government that its 180,000 civil servants must stay politically neutral.
Anti-government protests were planned again for Monday afternoon as thousands of people were expected to skip work or take annual leave to participate in an anti-government strike due to pro-employer labour laws.
Strike umbrella group Save Hong Kong said approximately 24,000 people from 20 sectors were expected to participate in Monday’s strike. That number does not include most of Hong Kong‘s unions, which are politically aligned with Beijing.
Elsewhere in Hong Kong on Monday, massive transport delays brought much of the city to a standstill.
Service on the majority of the city’s MTR subway system was severely delayed or suspended throughout the morning as protesters disrupted train departures. Elsewhere protesters prevented the flow of traffic by blockading roads and tunnels.
At Hong Kong International Airport, hundreds of flights were cancelled or severely delayed as airport ground crew and airline staff participated in the strike.
The city’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific and its subsidiary Cathay Dragon alone announced the cancellation of approximately 75 flights scheduled to depart Hong Kong on Monday.
Budget carrier Hong Kong Airlines meanwhile reported 40 flights into and out of the city had been cancelled.
The transit delays are largely supported by MTR staff and train conductors, hundreds of whom signed petitions in support of the strike, according to organizers.
Cathay Pacific staff and cabin crew have also signed protest petitions.