Flights take off after protest ban

Top News | Stella Wong 15 Aug 2019

Flights at Hong Kong International Airport gradually returned to normal yesterday after the Airport Authority obtained a court injunction barring protesters from disrupting the departure hall.

This comes as nearly 1,000 flights were canceled on Monday and Tuesday due to protests. Another 100 flights were canceled yesterday, although only a small number of protesters remained in the arrival hall.

The authority obtained an interim injunction to restrain persons from unlawfully obstructing the airport. "The interim injunction stipulates that persons are restrained from attending or participating in any demonstration or protest or public order event in the airport other than in the area designated by the authority," it said.

Peaceful protests can only take place at two corners of the arrival hall, according to the order handed down yesterday by the High Court.

The order also bars those who are not travelers or airport staff from entering the aisles of check-in counters at the departure hall. Nor can protesters obstruct any road or exits, either vehicular or pedestrian, within or near the airport area.

Any person who breaches the injunction order - in effect until next Friday - may be prosecuted for contempt of court.

Starting yesterday afternoon, airport security staff guarded the terminal entrances and only allowed airport staff or departing passengers with a valid air ticket for a flight within the next 24 hours to enter.

At 8.30pm, dozens of protesters demanded entry to Terminal 1, saying they should be allowed into the protest zone instead of being banned from the building altogether. By 10pm they still insisted they had the right to enter.

Authority chief executive Fred Lam Tin-fuk said a total of 979 flights were canceled on Monday and Tuesday. Thirty percent of the Tuesday flights were called off.

Lam said protesters have to obtain a letter of no objection from police as well as approval from the authority beforehand.

"For a period of time in the future, we do not plan to allow any assemblies at the airport," he said.

Regarding the flights that departed on Tuesday even though they were shown as "canceled" on the authority's website, Lam said it was because the authority did not encourage passengers to head to the airport.

But as some passengers headed to the airport and entered the restricted area, some flights still departed. The authority was not "lying," he said.

Passengers can contact the authority directly if they missed a flight after seeing their canceled status on its website, he added.

Secretary for Transport Frank Chan Fan said the authority has adopted an inclusive attitude toward previous assemblies at the airport.

"So far, the Airport Authority and the government have been making every endeavor to ensure smooth operation of the airport while facilitating peaceful demonstration in the airport at the same time. The airport was closed for the first time on Monday due to demonstration," he said.

Lam said the authority does not have any other choice as it must ensure smooth airport operations so "the economy and the future of Hong Kong will not be jeopardized by such occurrences in the future."

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward YauTang-wah said that during August 6 to 10, the number of visitors to the SAR fell 33.4 percent from the same period last year.

If any people need to take a flight diverted to the mainland, but did not bring their Home Return Permit with them, they can contact the Immigration Department, he said.

Yau added that some members from Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners offered to extend the stays of tourists for free if they are stranded here.

stellast.wong@singtaonewscorp.com

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