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Hong Kong leader refuses to quit as general strike causes travel chaos

Carrie Lam said recent pro-democracy protests had pushed the city to the verge of a ‘very dangerous situation’.

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam (AP)
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam (AP)

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has insisted she has no plans to resign in the face of pro-democracy protests which have led to a general strike.

More than 100 flights have been cancelled and traffic has suffered major disruption during the strike in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

Ms Lam said Hong Kong is on the verge of a “very dangerous situation”, adding that current protests are operating with “ulterior motives” that threaten the former British colony’s prosperity and security.

The chief executive of the Hong Kong legislature said: “I don’t think at this point in time, resignation of myself or some of my colleagues would provide a better solution.”

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Protesters sit on a platform at Fortress Hill MTR station in Hong Kong (AP)

Protesters snarled the morning rush hour by blocking train and platform doors, preventing subway and commuter rail services from leaving their stations.

After demonstrators in face masks refused to move from train entry points in several stations, commuters found themselves stranded on crowded platforms, with some requiring medical attention.

More than 100 flights have been cancelled out of Hong Kong after a large number of airport employees called in sick in apparent participation in the general strike, Hong Kong media reported.

Public broadcaster RTHK said Cathay Pacific and other domestic carriers such as Hong Kong Airlines were the worst affected. Airport express train services were also suspended.

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Escalators to the platform are seen empty during morning rush hour at Fortress Hill MTR station (AP)

The city-wide strike and demonstrations in seven Hong Kong districts moved forward on Monday following a weekend of clashes between protesters and riot police on the streets.

They are part of a summer of demonstrations that began in June against proposed extradition legislation that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China to stand trial.

While the government has since suspended the bill, protesters have pressed on with broader calls for democratic reforms and an investigation into alleged police brutality.

The Communist Party-led central government in Beijing has condemned what they call violent and radical protesters who have vandalised the Chinese national anthem and national flag on the sidelines of major rallies.

China has accused unnamed “foreign forces” of inflaming the demonstrations out of a desire to contain the country’s development.

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A riot policeman gestures as officers retreat back to Kwun tong police station during recent protests (AP)

On Chinese state broadcaster CCTV’s daily noon news report, an anchor read aloud from a strongly-worded editorial entitled: “The chaos in Hong Kong must not continue.”

The editorial said: “We warn those maniacs and thugs who intend to continue to mess up Hong Kong by holding to a fantasy that you must pay a price for your savage revenge.

“So please become aware of your errors, turn back from your incorrect path and set down the butcher’s knives.”

The former British colony was returned to China in 1997 under the framework of “one country, two systems”, which promised the city certain democratic freedoms not afforded to the mainland.

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Workers comfort a pregnant woman as protesters disrupt subway service in the city (AP)

But some Hong Kong residents feel that Beijing has been increasingly encroaching on their freedoms in recent years.

Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy legislator, said Beijing should consider engaging with protesters through Lam.

“We hope the learned people in Beijing would at least deliver some sincerity by suggesting via Carrie Lam: ‘Okay, you guys want democracy, perhaps we can talk,'” Ms Mo said.

“We can talk – just three words. And maybe that can help appease the society.”

PA

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