Hong Kong General Strike Disrupts Subways and Leads to Canceled Flights

HONG KONG — Hong Kong braced for a long day of protests Monday as the antigovernment activists called for a citywide strike, transit disruptions and rallies across the city.

Their goal is to increase pressure on Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong chief executive who has conceded little since June when she suspended, but did not withdraw, a contentious proposal that would allow extraditions to mainland China, which has prompted weeks of protests.

More than 100 flights at Hong Kong’s airport were canceled Monday and transit officials reported disruptions to key subway and rail lines, including the suspension of service on part of the Island Line, the main subway line on Hong Kong Island.

Protests were planned across the city, from outside the government headquarters on Hong Kong Island to Mong Kok, a dense urban district on the Kowloon Peninsula, and several locations spread across the New Territories to the north.

Several trade unions, including Disney cast members and teachers, have announced that they would strike on Monday. Informal groups of civil servants, aviation workers, construction workers, lawyers and finance workers also said they discussed plans to strike on Telegram, a social media app where many recent protests were planned.

The government issued a stark warning Sunday night, after two days of confrontational protests that included temporary blockage of a tunnel linking Hong Kong Island with Kowloon. It said demonstrations “have already gone far beyond the limits of peaceful and rational protests for which the government and general public will not condone under any circumstances” and warned “they will push Hong Kong into a very dangerous situation.”

“Any large-scale strikes and acts of violence will affect the livelihood and economic activities of Hong Kong citizens,” the government statement added.

It was not immediately clear how many people would follow the call for a general strike. Some employers issued warnings, while others said they would tolerate no-shows. The Labor Department asked employers to “show understanding and flexibility” to employees given the expected traffic disruptions during the morning rush.

Joshua Law, the secretary of the Civil Service, wrote to the city’s 180,000 civil servants last week that he “absolutely did not approve” of civil servants gathering or going on strike. On Friday, government employees gathered after work to call for an independent investigation into the push for the extradition bill and allegations of police wrongdoing.

The Hong Kong government warned last week ahead of the Friday protest and strike call that it would “seriously follow up on any violations of regulations” that restrict civil servants public involvement in politics.

Hong Kong Airport warned travelers Monday morning of potential disruptions and to check in with their airlines.

Fred Lam, chief executive of Airport Authority Hong Kong, wrote to employees last week, urging them to “continue performing your duties professionally on Monday.” Some aviation workers joined a protest at the airport last month, and an unsigned letter had circulated online warning of a “noncooperation movement” by air traffic controllers unless the government responded to the protesters’ demands.

The general strike is a political action and not a dispute between workers and management, meaning participants will not receive the already limited protections for labor actions in Hong Kong law, scholars say.

Employees who participate in the strike could face risk of punishment or dismissal, particularly if their employer warned against participation and they did not take a day of vacation or have an excuse, like a doctor’s note, said Rick Glofcheski, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong.

“Anyone on the general strike can be counted as being a brave person,” he said. “In the current political mood, there are millions of them in Hong Kong. But basically you don’t have any protection.”

Some employers have signaled they would tolerate workers’ absence on Monday, including the Catholic Diocese, the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, a pro-democracy labor group with 160,000 members, called on workers to strike Monday, while the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, a pro-Beijing group, urged workers, particularly those working in transportation, to work as normal to prevent the city becoming paralyzed.

Maggie Chung, a 32-year-old accountant who attended a rally at Kennedy Town Sunday night, said she intended to take no-pay leave or sick leave even though she had not yet passed the probationary period of her new job. “If I lose my job, I can find another one,” she said. “But if Hong Kong is lost, it’s gone forever.”

Many hospital workers said that they planned to work for the sake of their patients, even though they supported anti-government strikes.

“If we participated in strikes as front-line medical workers, our patients would be affected the most,” Dr. Arisina Ma, the president of the Hong Kong Public Doctors’ Association said at a rally for medical workers Friday. “Hong Kong civilians have suffered enough.”

Over the weekend, protesters called on the public to join the strike. “August 5 strike!” was chanted at demonstrations that spread over several locations on Saturday and Sunday. And even far from the crush of the mass gatherings, Hong Kong residents urged others to join.

Kathy Lai, 38, a travel coordinator for a media company, carried a sign that read, “August 5, I strike,” as she walked Saturday with her dog on Bowen Road, a popular running path in an upscale neighborhood on Hong Kong Island.

The strike is a way for middle-age people to contribute to a protest movement that has been led by young people, she said.

“We can’t send the children to fight with the police any more,” Ms. Lai said. “We are adults and we have to fight for the city more than the children.”


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