Thousands march in Hong Kong; China frees UK mission worker

Thousands march in Hong Kong; China frees UK mission worker
# 24 August 2019 11:44 (UTC +04:00)

Hong Kong shut four subway stations to head off an anti-government protest in a gritty industrial district on Saturday but thousands marched anyway, as China released a British consulate staffer whose detention had helped fuel tension, APA reports citing Reuters.

The offshore airport and the roads and railways leading to it were operating normally despite plans by protesters to implement a “stress test” of transport links and disrupt traffic after weeks of unrest in the Chinese-ruled city.

Authorities had taken out a court order to prevent demonstrations at the airport, which was forced to close for part of last week after protesters thronged the main terminal for several days, grounding around 1,000 flights and occasionally clashing with police.

The MTR subway stations were closed around Kwun Tong, a densely populated area on the east of the Kowloon peninsula, but thousands packed the streets, most carrying umbrellas against the sun despite hazy skies in the former British colony.

Some protesters sat on the ground to stop metal gates closing Kwun Tong station itself as others berated staff for shutting down the trains.

“Shame on the MTR,” some shouted. Others complained about increased surveillance. Station shops were closed.

The protests, which began as opposition to a now-suspended bill that would have allowed suspects to be extradited to mainland China, have swelled into wider calls for democracy, plunging the city into an unprecedented crisis and posing a direct challenge for Communist Party leaders in Beijing.

Demonstrators say they are fighting the erosion of the “one country, two systems” arrangement that enshrines a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong since it was handed back from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

British consulate worker Simon Cheng was detained for 15 days for violating public security management regulations, police in Shenzhen, across the border from Hong Kong, said on their Twitter-like Weibo account.

Police said Cheng was released as scheduled on Saturday and that his legal rights and interests had been observed. They also said Cheng had confessed to accusations against him, a commonly used comment by Chinese police, even though Cheng was not given a chance to defend himself in court.

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