Protesters Return To Hong Kong's International Airport

Aug 13, 2019
Originally published on August 13, 2019 7:29 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Hong Kong International Airport is usually one of the busiest in the world, but this week, protesters have been shutting it down. And earlier today, Hong Kong authorities announced that all outgoing flights have been cancelled again. Here's how one protester described the strategy to NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

ALY POON: We just flash (ph) and go, flash and go. Anywhere we can let the government hear our voices, we will be there.

GREENE: It's been 10 weeks now since over a million people first took to the streets in Hong Kong to protest a proposed extradition bill with China. Even after the government tabled that bill, the tensions have been steadily escalating. Bonnie Leung is a pro-democracy activist and a key protest organizer in Hong Kong and joins us now from there. Thanks for taking the time, Bonnie.

BONNIE LEUNG: Thank you for giving me this opportunity.

GREENE: What are you accomplishing by shutting down the airport?

LEUNG: Well, I believe this is a somewhat controversial strategy. But I believe what the protesters have in their mind is that, as we had done everything we could to get the attention of the government and want them to respond to our five demands, nothing had happened, no real actions had been - taken place. However, protesters have been suffering from excessive police force, and one girl, a medic, even got shot in the eye and lost her eyesight.

So the protesters have been suffering, and no real results have been achieved. So I believe that what the protesters would like to do is to get more attention from around the world and really hope that the international community can help us to give pressure to the Hong Kong government to fulfill our totally legitimate five demands.

GREENE: You said nothing had been achieved, but the original mission of the protest was to protest this extradition agreement that would have allowed people to be extradited to China. That was tabled, so wasn't that an accomplishment? And I guess what more do you want now? What are you asking for?

LEUNG: Well, Carrie Lam, our chief executive, that - said that the bill is dead. However, the bill is still on, like I said (ph). And technically, all she needs is to take a couple of weeks to get the bill to be on the agenda of the Legislative Council again. So because we had been lied to by the Hong Kong government for so many, so many times, we cannot simply believe that the bill is dead. What we need is the total withdrawal of the bill.

And also, the protest had been conducted for almost 10 weeks, and in this 10 weeks, a lot of protesters had been suffering from, as I said, police excessive force. And the police had been using lethal weapons against protesters, and they had violated all their rules, violated the basic human rights, including shooting people in very close range in the head. So the police actions is totally unacceptable in any civilized city or places.

So what we need is really an independent inquiry to thoroughly investigate everything the police have done, otherwise the city simply cannot move on and trust can't be rebuilt between the Hong Kong people and the Hong Kong government and also the police force.

GREENE: There have been some signals from Beijing that the Chinese authorities are not prepared to back down, that there have been some photos, maybe propaganda, looking like there's been a buildup of some sort of response from China potentially just across the border. Are you worried that this could get more violent if the Chinese government really gets involved and is it worth it?

LEUNG: Well, I believe what the Chinese government, what Beijing wants Hong Kong people to react through those images is that to remind us of what happened 30 years ago in 1989 in the June 4, the massacre. However, Hong Kong people although...

GREENE: You're talking about Tiananmen Square, right?

LEUNG: Yes, in Tiananmen Square. Although Hong Kong people of course were afraid because the police force is already using excessive force. What if Beijing intervenes? So of course we are afraid, but we cannot simply give up our campaign because that would mean loss of our home. So we must carry on.

And I must add that the protesters gave no excuses for Beijing to intervene because, in a basic law, in our constitutional law, stated that only when Hong Kong governments cannot control a chaotic situation in Hong Kong, PLA simply cannot intervene without the Hong Kong government's invitation.

GREENE: Bonnie Leung, thank you so much.

LEUNG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.