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Hong Kong Airport Pleads With Protesters: “Spare Our Passengers”

Hong Kong Airport Pleads With Protesters: “Spare Our Passengers”
Jeff Edwards

Officials at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) are employing a unique strategy to help stave off disruptions during what is expected to be yet another weekend of demonstrations and civil disobedience. The Airport Authority placed print ads reminding protesters that passengers are not adversaries in the fight for reforms.

A 14th consecutive weekend of anti-government protests in Hong Kong is expected to continue this week despite a major concession from lawmakers who withdrew the proposed extradition legislation that instigated the political unrest in March. Protesters are now demanding further reforms, including immediate new elections, a reversal of the official characterization of the June 12th protest as a riot, the release of jailed protesters and an independent inquiry into alleged police misconduct.

Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) has increasingly become the focus of anti-government demonstrators desperate to keep a global spotlight on the movement’s plight. In August, protesters forced the airport’s closure for nearly two full days. Since then, a court order barring protesters from the airport property has kept flights operating, but demonstrations outside the terminal brought ground transportation to and from the airport to a near standstill.

According to a Time Magazine report, protesters again plan to target transportation routes to the airport. Ahead of the weekend’s planned demonstrations, airport officials have taken extraordinary steps to head off disruptions, including placing print ads in several Hong Kong newspapers urging protesters not to punish passengers who are ostensibly blameless in the dispute with police and lawmakers.

“Spare our passengers further disruption,” one advertisement reads. “We again strongly urge protesters not to disrupt the journey of tens of thousands of travelers who use our airport every day.”

Of course, airport managers aren’t counting on the PR campaign to quell the expected civil unrest. The airport also laid out a set of measures designed to protect roads and public transportation between the airport and city center.

“In view of the calls for attempts to block traffic to Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) on 7 September, Airport Authority Hong Kong (AA) has been working closely with the airport community and public transport operators to implement special measures tomorrow to ensure the smooth operations of HKIA,” officials said in a release dated September 6th. “Starting from 0900hrs on 7 September until close of service, Airport Express service will not stop at the Kowloon, Tsing Yi and AsiaWorld-Expo Stations, and all Airport Express trains will only take passengers from Hong Kong Station to the airport. City-bound Airport Express Service will only stop at Hong Kong Station. In-town check-in service at Kowloon Station will also be suspended tomorrow. Meanwhile, services of airport buses may also be adjusted tomorrow according to operational circumstances.”

The Airport Authority also reminded potential protesters that court orders barring demonstrators from the airport also include the property surrounding the facility. The language of this admonishment was much less cordial than in the print ad campaign.

“The AA reiterates that the High Court has ordered the continuation of the interim injunction order (the Order) obtained by the AA on 13 August 2019 which restrains persons from unlawfully and willfully obstructs or interferes with the proper use of the airport,” officials warned. “The Order covers the entire airport island. Any person who blocks traffic connecting to the airport may also constitute acts of unlawfully and willfully obstructing or interfering with the proper use of the airport.”

Will the Hong Kong Airport Authorities countermeasures (including a public good cop/bad cop performance) help make getting to and from the airport business as usual or are ground transportation headaches going to be the new normal for the foreseeable future? The frequent HKG flyers on the Flyertalk forums will likely be the very first to know.

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