Despite embattled leader Carrie Lam’s withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill, Hong Kong is still bracing for more demonstrations this weekend.
Just a week after thousands of activists disrupted transport links sparking some of the worst violence since the unrest escalated three months ago, Protesters plan to block traffic to the city’s international airport on Saturday
The situation in Hong Kong has become very sensitive that in an advertisement on Friday in the South China Morning Post newspaper, the Airport Authority of the Asian financial hub urged protesters “not to disrupt the journey of tens of thousands of travellers who use the airport every day”.
Other rallies are planned on Friday evening across the city, at sites such as subway stations and near government headquarters.
Students in Hong Kong formed human chains outside their schools on Friday afternoon, to raise awareness for the remaining demands of protesters
On Wednesday, Lam announced the withdrawal of the extradition bill, conceding one of the protesters’ five key demands, although many said the move was too little, too late.
The bill, which would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party, triggered mass protests that have since widened into a backlash against the Hong Kong government and its political masters in Beijing.
The massive, and sometimes violent, protests present Chinese President Xi Jinping with his greatest popular challenge since he came to power in 2012.
Turmoil sparked by the unrest is also pummelling Hong Kong’s economy, which faces its first recession in a decade. There is evidence some funds are being moved to rival financial centres such as Singapore.
On Friday, ratings agency Fitch downgraded Hong Kong’s credit rating, citing the continued unrest.
Many protesters remain angry over Lam’s refusal to grant an independent inquiry into perceived police brutality against them. Police have fired tear gas and bean bag rounds at protesters, who retaliated by throwing petrol bombs and bricks at them in running battles.
The protesters’ other demands include the retraction of the word “riot” to describe rallies, release of all demonstrators arrested and the right for Hong Kong people to choose their own leaders.
Activists have said they will continue demonstrating until these are met.
Many residents fear Beijing is eroding the autonomy granted to Hong Kong when it was handed back to China in 1997.
China has denied the charge of meddling and said Hong Kong is an internal affair.
It denounced the protests, warning of the damage to the economy and the possible use of force to quell the unrest.
Legislation addressing China’s actions in Hong Kong will be among the top priorities pushed by US Senate Democrats when Congress returns to work after a recess next week.
Meanwhile on Friday German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she discussed Hong Kong with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and that there needed to be a peaceful solution for the city.
The Chinese premier, speaking at a joint press conference in Beijing, said China wanted to prevent unrest in the former British colony.
Source: Evening Standard