Defer Hong Kong trips, envoy tells public

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 14 2019 09:01 AM | Updated as of Aug 14 2019 09:22 AM

Police clash with anti-government protesters at the airport in Hong Kong, China August 13, 2019. Thomas Peter, Reuters

Travelers who do not have urgent appointments in Hong Kong should defer their trips to the semi-autonomous Chinese city, the Philippine consul general in Hong Kong said Wednesday, after a pro-democracy protest paralyzed hundreds of flights there for 2 days. 

The latest protest led to ugly scenes at one of the world's busiest airports, where small groups of hardcore demonstrators turned on 2 men they accused of being spies or undercover police -- and as desperate travelers pleaded in vain to be allowed onto flights on Tuesday. 

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"Nagsalita na po yata iyung Malacañan, advising iyung mga Filipino na kung hindi naman po necessary trip, 'wag na pong pumunta dito muna," Paulo Velasco Saret, Philippine consul general in Hong Kong, told radio DZMM. 

"Predictable naman po kung saan magkakaroon ng demo, kaya nga lang po, kung iyung airport ay on and off ang operation, talaga pong may mga mapeperwisyo po na hindi makakalabas, makakapasok," he added. 

(Malaca؜ñan has spoken, advising Filipinos to refrain from going here if their trip is not necessary. The demonstration venues are predictable, but if the airport operation is on and off, it could't be helped that some would be inconvenienced and barred from entering or leaving.) 

Around 40 to 50 Filipinos were stranded at the airport on Tuesday afternoon, said Saret, who heads the Philippine Consulate's Assistance to Nationals Section. 

Demonstrators defied warnings from the city's leader, who said they were heading down a "path of no return", and US President Donald Trump called for calm, saying his intelligence had confirmed Chinese troop movements toward the Hong Kong border. 

Hong Kong's 10-week political crisis, which has seen millions of people take to the streets calling for a halt to sliding freedoms, was already the biggest challenge to Chinese rule of the semi-autonomous city since its 1997 handover from Britain. 

Earlier this month, a Filipino was arrested for wearing a black shirt like that worn by thousands of protesters who clashed with riot police and was released from detention after posting bail, said Germinia Aguilar-Usudan, deputy Philippine consul general in Hong Kong. 

Philippine authorities are monitoring if the Filipino will be permanently released or if charges will be filed against him, said Saret. 

The Filipino was only carrying a cellphone and a stored value smart card when he was arrested, and nothing else that would connect him to the protests, added the official. 

Saret reminded Filipinos to stay away from protests sites and refrain from wearing black. 

Hong Kong is home to 230,000 Filipinos, most of whom are domestic workers, the Philippine Consulate earlier said.

The protests there began in opposition to a bill that would have allowed extraditions to the mainland, but quickly evolved into a broader battle.
 
By early Wednesday, most protesters had left and the South China Morning Post reported that the Airport Authority had obtained an injunction to remove demonstrators, although it was unclear how it would be enforced. 
 
Beijing is sending increasingly ominous signals that the unrest in Hong Kong must end, with state-run media showing videos of security forces gathering across the border. 

Authorities in China on Monday slammed violent protesters who threw petrol bombs at police officers, linking them to "terrorism". 

With a report from Agence France-Presse