Hong Kong MTR chaos draws ire

By Wang Cong and Chen Qingqing in Hong Kong Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/30 11:05:57

Protesters’ disruption prompts backlash from commuters

After targeting government bodies and police officers and causing chaos on the streets for weeks, Hong Kong radical protesters on Tuesday veered into a new territory - targeting thousands of commuters by disrupting the city's subway system during the morning rush hour.

The latest move by the protesters to cripple the city's public transport system has drawn the ire of some commuters, whose morning travels were severely disrupted, which further showed that radical forces in Hong Kong are seeking to hold the city hostage in pursuit of their ill-intentioned political goals.

Following violent clashes with police officers over the weekend, radical protesters gathered in some of the city's busiest subway stations and caused the suspension of several subway lines for hours during the morning rush hour. 

Heeding calls to stop subways in online group chats, several protesters were seen at the Tiu Keng Leng station around 7:40 am on Tuesday. Soon after, some began to obstruct the automatic train doors from closing to stop the train from departing.

Only a few police officers were present at the station who tried to find the protesters. But due to the confusion caused by the number of commuters, they could not find anyone. The protesters did not all wear their usual black outfit.

Passenges wait for a subway train at Tiu Keng Leng station in Hong Kong Tuesday morning, when protesters disrupted metro service. Photo: Chen Qingqing/GT

Citing train door obstructions, passenger requests for assistance and the activation of a safety device at the platform, the MTR Corp, which runs the city's subway systems, suspended services for several trains, including the Kwun Tong, Island and Tseung Kwan O lines. Operations resumed around 11:00 am.

"We understand that some people want to express their opinions and we regret that their actions have disrupted train services and affected other passengers," a spokesperson for the MTR told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The MTR also denied rumors that some subway workers were carrying out a strike against the alleged wrongdoing of the subway system during a violent clash between protesters and unknown white-clad individuals in the Yuen Long district last week. "The MTR did not participate in any strike," the spokesperson said.

The suspension of services caused a chaotic scene at the stations, where morning commuters were prevented from getting to work or other destinations. Many remained silent and opted for other public transport, but a few complained out loud, only to be shouted at by protesters.

"Go take the bus!" the protesters told one passenger after he complained. "Don't blame us!"

"No matter what your political ideas are, you should not interfere in public transport and cause trouble for everyone," said a passenger in a blue shirt heading to work who refused to give his full name. The passenger, surrounded by a group of masked protesters in black, was attacked verbally.

A local resident surnamed Chan living near the station in the New Territories, told the Global Times on Tuesday that it usually takes her 40 minutes from home to work, but today she took more than two hours. "It really caused trouble for me," she said. 

Another male commuter said he would be very late for work "if I ever get there at all." Asked to comment on the protesters, the commuter simply said, "What can I say?" and shrugged his shoulders before leaving the station.

Outside the subway station, thousands were waiting in lines that snaked from the street to the back of the subway station. As it began to rain, many opened their umbrellas while others ran for shelter inside the station.

Growing frustration 

People line up at a tram stop in Hong Kong on Tuesday after some Mass Transit Railway (MTR) services were suspended by protesters. Photo: AFP

The train stoppage also caused heavy traffic jams in the Kwun Tong area and angered taxi drivers who avoided the area, despite higher fare. "I used to sympathize with these protesters, but now I'm getting annoyed by them," a taxi driver surnamed Chen told the Global Times.

Chen's comment underscored the growing frustration among the Hong Kong public toward the protesters. Still, many were reluctant to speak up for fear of retribution.

"Many pro-establishment politicians do not dare to speak out because some radical protesters have attacked anyone with a different opinion," Hung Kam-in, deputy secretary-general of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Some police officers and their families said they have also been facing threats of retribution, after their personal information was exposed, media reported.

In an apparent bid to encourage more in Hong Kong to stand up against radical protesters, central government officials called for "people of all walks of life" in Hong Kong to oppose and stop violence at a rare press conference on Monday.

Fan Lingzhi contributed to this story


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