This article first appeared in South China Morning Post on 5 October 2019
Link to original article: HERE
Rail operator took unprecedented stop of closing entire network on Friday night and has said it will not reopen on Saturday
Wave of destruction leaves businesses picking up pieces as city braces for another weekend of unrest
Hong Kong’s entire railway network was at a standstill on Saturday, while dozens of shopping centres, shops, and banks, also closed as the city reeled from the aftermath of another night of widespread destruction and violence.
Anti-government protesters angry at the introduction of a law banning the wearing of face masks at public rallies rampaged through the city on Friday night and into the early hours of the following morning.
After the unprecedented shutdown of all MTR stations late on Friday night, the MTR Corporation announced at 3.45am that none of the lines could be reopened in the morning, and subsequently said the network would not reopen on Saturday, apart from the Airport Express. “After the outbreak of violence at multiple districts, maintenance staff are still carrying out repair works at damaged stations,” the rail operator said on its website. “After conducting an assessment jointly with the police and other relevant government departments, all MTR train services covering the Heavy Rail (except Airport Express) and Light Rail is suspended today.
“MTR buses will provide limited service from 4pm onwards.”
“It’s definitely inconvenient. I had to call off plans to go to a talk in Tsim Sha Tsui with my friends because MTR is not available,” said Simon Chan, a 63-year-old who wanted to meet friends in Sai Wan Ho.
“The government should be responsible for this. They pushed forward with the anti-mask law when there’s great anger in society. Now people even of middle age or elderly go onto the street.”
A Hong Kong Tramway spokesman said because of public demonstrations, tram services would only run between Kennedy Town and Sheung Wan, and from North Point to Shau Kei Wan from 1pm.
On Friday night, anti-government protesters ramped up their sustained campaign of destruction against the city’s rail operator, having accused it of colluding with the police force to close down stations.
In Kwun Tong, Sha Tin and Sha Tin Wai MTR stations, they destroyed turnstiles, smashed advertisement billboards and daubed graffiti on the walls and ticket machines.
Sai Wan Ho station was badly damaged, with slogans such as “Chinazi” painted on the wall. A security camera outside the station exit was also broken.
A board of the Eastern District Council outside the Sai Wan Ho Market and Cooked Food Centre was also vandalised, and slogan painted on it reads “blood will have blood”.
A train was seen with its roof on fire in Sha Tin, while huge fires were lit at entrances to Causeway Bay, Mong Kok and Tsuen Wan MTR stations.
More than 20 shopping centres were also closed across the city, including Sogo in Causeway Bay, Elements in West Kowloon, and Yoho Mall in Yuen Long, as Hong Kong braces itself for another day of unrest.
Meanwhile, all performances at the West Kowloon Cultural District on Saturday have been cancelled or rescheduled.
One of the city’s two largest supermarket chains, ParknShop, announced on its Facebook page its stores would not open for the day, while Watsons, a pharmacy chain owned by the same parent company as ParknShop, also said all its stores, with the exception of those at Hong Kong International Airport, would close for the day.
On Saturday afternoon, Wellcome, and convenience store chain 7-Eleven both announced their stores would close at 5pm.
“I don’t have plans to go out today because the whole MTR network is shut down,” said Jess Li, a 29-year-old Sai Wan Ho resident. “But the neighbourhood does not seem dangerous. People still go out to buy groceries.”
Li was on the train going home from HKU station at about 10pm on Friday. But as the train reached Sai Ying Pun, all the passengers were forced to leave the train.
“No one knew what happened,” she said. “There were protests in certain places on Hong Kong Island, but I don’t understand why they needed to shut down the whole line.”
Cathay Pacific and HongKong Airlines said its in-town check-in services at Hong Kong Station would resume at 3.30pm, but Kowloon Station had been suspended until further notice.
But, the Airport Express resumed services from 2.30pm, however trains will only run between the airport and Hong Kong stations. Kowloon, Tsing Yi and AsiaWorld-Expo stations remain closed.
Cathay also said because of traffic disruption affecting travel to Hong Kong International Airport, with immediate effect, rebooking and rerouting charges would be waived for all tickets issued worldwide on or before Saturday, for travel with Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon arriving and departing from the city between Saturday and Sunday.
On Saturday morning, many residents could be seen rushing to supermarkets, with empty shelves seen at one Wellcome supermarket, while the queue to pay at another store, Market Place by Jasons, extended to the pavement outside.
Several banks have suspended services at some branches because of vandalised facilities and traffic disruptions, including Bank of China, which closed all branches except the Bank of China Tower branch, in Central.
The mainland bank has been targeted by protesters in recent weeks.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority advised customers to use online banking or ATM services as far as possible.
“Any form of vandalism and violence should be condemned,” the authority said in a statement. “We hope that social order will be restored soon, allowing banks to resume normal operations and serve businesses and members of the public.”
The Jockey Club said the Mark Six draw, Hong Kong’s lottery, scheduled for Saturday night would be postponed to next Tuesday, with all accepted bets remaining valid.
All off-course betting branches will be closed for business on Saturday, as well while the Telebet and Customer Care hotlines will be suspended from 5pm.
According to the Hospital Authority, as of 9.30am, 31 people had been sent to hospital, including 25 men and six women. Two were in serious condition, 15 stable and 14 had been discharged.
Those in stable condition included a 14-year-old boy who suffered a gunshot wound in the leg who is currently in Tuen Mun Hospital.
On Friday, protesters wearing masks in open defiance of the new law, also blocked roads and vandalised and burned shops, and bank outlets.
Police began taking control later at night, firing tear gas at violent mobs on both sides of the harbour, from Wong Tai Sin, Tuen Mun and Tsuen Wan to Causeway Bay and Aberdeen.