Hong Kong is bracing for further demonstrations and a “stress test” of the city’s international airport at the weekend, as nearly three months of pro-democracy protests showed no sign of abating.
Multiple protests are planned on Friday, including a march by accountants to government headquarters and a “Baltic Chain” event where protesters will join hands across different districts in the Chinese territory.
In 1989 an estimated two million people joined arms across three Baltic states in a protest against Soviet Union rule, which became known as the Baltic Way or Baltic Chain.
Pro-democracy protesters have said they also plan to disrupt transport to the city’s airport at the weekend.
“Go to the airport by different means, including MTR, Airport Bus, Taxi, Bike and Private Car to increase pressure on airport transport,” they wrote online.
Hong Kong’s international airport, one of the world’s busiest, was forced to close temporarily last week and hundreds of flights were cancelled or rescheduled when protesters and police clashed.
The protests, which escalated in June over a now-suspended bill that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China for trial, have grown into wider calls for political freedom.
The protests, which have drawn millions of Hong Kong residents onto the streets, have plunged the Asian financial hub into its deepest crisis since its handover to Beijing in 1997 and pose one of the biggest challenges to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took power in 2012.
Protest demands ignored
On Thursday, student leaders have also announced a two-week boycott of lectures as the new school term is set to begin.
The unrest has been fuelled by broader worries about the erosion of freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula adopted after Hong Kong’s return to China but not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent judiciary and the right to protest.
The protests are already taking a toll on the city’s economy and tourism, with the special administrative region on the cusp of its first recession in a decade.
Companies including the big banks and property developers have called for a restoration of law and order while exhibitors are seeing widespread cancellations of events.
In the most recent case, international jewellers have sought the rescheduling of a huge trade fair with up to 40 percent of exhibitors threatening to pull out.
Demonstrators on Friday and over the weekend are reiterating calls for the government to address their five demands: withdraw the extradition bill, an independent inquiry into the protests and perceived police brutality, a halt to descriptions of the protests as “rioting”, a waiver of charges against those arrested, and resumption of political reform.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has offered talks with her critics, but so far she continues to ignore their demands.