vandalism, economic costs make people less sympathetic


HONG KONG, CHINA – AUGUST 31: Protesters throw tear gas canisters back at police during an anti-government rally outside of Central Government Complex on August 31, 2019 in Hong Kong, China.

Anthony Kwan | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Hong Kong on Sunday saw it’s most violent day since mass protests broke out in the city thirteen weeks ago.

While many people were supportive of the hundreds of thousands that took to the streets at the beginning of the movement, fewer are sympathetic to the “radical protesters,” an investment consultant told CNBC Monday.

On Sunday, thousands of demonstrators blocked roads and public transportation routes to the Hong Kong International Airport, saying they hope to draw the world’s attention to their pro-democracy movement.

“We’re now seeing, really, what can only be described as mindless vandalism from the radical protesters,” said Richard Harris, chief executive of consulting investment management firm Port Shelter Investment.

Harris said even those who were sympathetic toward the marchers in June are not supportive of “the radicals’ wanton destruction.”

Violent demonstrators were seen tearing down CCTV cameras, throwing tear canisters back at the police and flipping metal fences onto the rail tracks, leaving many arrival passengers stranded in the airport for hours. The Hong Kong police responded to the protester’s behavior with water canons, tear gas and some violence.

The Hong Kong Police issued an interim injunction that was extended by court for the airport this weekend, warning anyone in breach of the order is liable to the offense of contempt of court.

On Sunday, the Hong Kong Police warned protesters to leave and “stop their illegal acts immediately.”

In response to the disruption caused by protesters, the Hong Kong public rail system, the MTR, suspended the airport express line. Multiple flights were reportedly canceled. This isn’t the first time the city’s public transportation system had to shut down due to increasing chaos from the mass demonstrations.

‘Economic toll’ on Hong Kong

In fact, people might be less sympathetic toward the protesters now that the Hong Kong economy is due to be hard hit by the increasingly violent rallies.

Harris said “the economic toll is pressing,” and businesses across sectors have been adversely affected. The city’s economic forecast was lowered in August and visitors are reportedly wary of traveling to Hong Kong.

Furthermore, many high schools and universities are boycotting school for two weeks. School was due to reopen on Monday after the summer break. Government authorities were hoping that once school restarted, protesters —predominantly Hong Kong youth — would return to normal life, but there are concerns the boycott could galvanize more students to join the movement.

In response, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said Monday that educational institutions should not be a place to raise political demand, and schools should be a calm and peaceful place for students to study.

The former British colony was handed back to China in 1997 and has since been ruled under the “one country, two systems” principle — that means the special administrative region can enjoy certain economic and political autonomy from Beijing.

Peaceful protests started more than three months ago over a now-suspended extradition bill that would have allowed people in the territory to be sent to the mainland for trial. But the protests have since turned more violent, in what some have blamed on “radicals.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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