HONG KONG — Thousands of protesters returned to Hong Kong International Airport for the second time in as many weeks Friday to raise global attention to their fight against the local government and a controversial extradition bill.
The airport’s vast arrivals hall was filled with drumbeats and chants of “Free Hong Kong” and “Add Oil,” a Cantonese slogan of encouragement, as protesters sat on the floor of the arrival hall, careful to create channels for passengers to exit the airport.
Dozens handed out pamphlets, stickers, and tote bags in English and simplified Mandarin to inform tourists about the protest movement, which is entering its 10th week Sunday. Others wore photos of violent clashes with police and a number of people held signs condemning police brutality.
Protesters say they plan to occupy the airport for three consecutive days this weekend in an attempt to reach tens of thousands of international travelers. More than 74 million people transited through Hong Kong International Airport in 2018, according to government figures, which has connections to 220 destinations.
“I think [visitors] are not aware when they come to Hong Kong, this is why we are handing out materials so they can understand what is happening,” said protester Lucinda Leung as she handed out an eight-page pamphlet on the protest movement. “We just want to let international arrivals to know what is happening in Hong Kong.”
Protest gear absent
The usual protest gear of helmets and gas masks were noticeably absent, however, as the last airport demonstration July 26 ended peacefully without police clearances. Security was also minimal although airport staff appeared to be monitoring the protests.
Protest demands remain much the same since the protest movement began June 9. They have asked for the local government to permanently withdraw a controversial legislative bill that would allow for criminal extradition to China, an independent commission into police brutality, and universal suffrage in the direct election of Hong Kong’s leader.
Save your energy
While many visitors were reluctant to speak to VOA, tourist Crystal Ling, a Chinese citizen who lives in Japan and has read about the protests on Facebook, said the airport demonstrations were “impressive,” but remained skeptical.
“To be honest the politics around the world in every country is almost the same, so I don’t stand for any government, I don’t stand for any side,” she said. “I think if I were them, I would prefer to save my energy to make more money and make my life better, and not just sit here and waste my time.”
Both the United States and Australia have issued travel warnings for nationals visiting Hong Kong because of the dozens of protests staged since June 9, many of which have expanded into popular tourist districts.
The Hong Kong government said Friday that Hong Kong “remains a welcoming city for tourists and investors, a safe place for travelers from around the world” despite the unrest.