More Hong Kong protests planned as metro limps back to business

A commuter jumps over a turnstile at Yau Ma Tei station of Hong Kong’s metro system after its partial opening. The usually efficient service was forced to shut down after arson attacks by anti-government protesters. (Reuters)
Updated 10 October 2019

More Hong Kong protests planned as metro limps back to business

  • MTR Corp, whose network carries about 5 million passengers a day, said all lines would close more than three hours earlier than normal
  • Closures come ahead of more protests on Thursday and others planned for the rest of the week

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s metro rail system will shut early again on Thursday to allow time to repair damaged facilities, its operator said as the city braced for more anti-government demonstrations after a string of violent protests in the Asian financial hub.
MTR Corp, whose network carries about 5 million passengers a day, said a line servicing a densely populated area in the city’s New Territories would not operate and all lines would close by 9p.m., more than three hours earlier than normal.
The usually efficient service was forced to shut down after arson attacks by anti-government protesters on Friday night, paralyzing transport across the Chinese-ruled city. It has operated only partially since.
The closures also come ahead of more protests on Thursday and others planned for the rest of the week.
The unrest started more than four months ago in what began as opposition to a now-withdrawn extradition bill but has since widened into a pro-democracy movement amid fears that China is encroaching on Hong Kong’s freedoms.
Those freedoms were guaranteed under a “one country, two systems” formula when Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, a formula that allows wide-ranging autonomy not enjoyed on the mainland.
However, the unrest has pushed the special administrative region into its worst political crisis since 1997 and poses the biggest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
Demonstrations planned for Thursday include some in support of Taiwan on its National Day and rallies against perceived police brutality, with protesters expected to wear eye patches to show solidarity with a young protester who was injured in clashes with police.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said in a National Day speech Hong Kong was “on the edge of disorder” because of the failure of “one country, two systems,” and she vowed to defend Taiwan’s sovereignty as Beijing ramps up pressure on the self-ruled island.
Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade province and there had been suggestions in China after Hong Kong’s 1997 return that Taiwan could be brought back into the fold under a similar formula.
Hong Kong is still recovering from a long weekend of violent clashes between police and tens of thousands of protesters.
Scores of shops remain boarded up after being trashed or torched, anti-government graffiti is scrawled over bus stops and buildings, and some streets are still strewn with broken glass and twisted metal debris.
Protest violence has often targeted the MTR mass transit system, which has been accused of closing stations at the government’s behest to stop demonstrators gathering.
The city’s economy has been hammered by the protests as it faces its first recession in a decade. The tourism and retail sectors have been hit particularly hard as visitors stay away.
Shopping malls and businesses have been forced to shut repeatedly, while a slew of events and conferences have moved to other locations, including Singapore.
The political sensitivities of the protests have also ensnared international businesses, with the US National Basketball Association the latest example after Chinese organizers on Wednesday canceled a fan event over a tweet by a team official supporting the Hong Kong protests.
China has warned foreign governments to stay out of the protests which they deem as an internal affair and have accused some, including Britain and the United States, of fanning anti-China sentiment.


Asylum-seeking Iranian beauty queen still in custody at Manila airport

Updated 43 min 52 sec ago

Asylum-seeking Iranian beauty queen still in custody at Manila airport

  • Bahari said authorities in the Philippines were keeping her in the dark about the status of her asylum case
  • She has consistently said the assault and battery case against her is fake, and Tehran was targeting her for supporting an opposition politician

MANILA: An Iranian beauty queen seeking asylum in the Philippines remains incarcerated at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport almost a week after she was barred from entering the southeast Asian country due to an Interpol red notice.
Bahareh Zare Bahari, Iran’s representative to the 2018 Miss Intercontinental pageant, was arrested at the airport last Thursday following a charge against her for an assault and battery case allegedly committed in Dagupan City in the Philippines. Bahari denies any wrongdoing. 
Speaking to Arab News by telephone on Wednesday, Bahari said authorities in the Philippines were keeping her in the dark about the status of her asylum case.
“Filipino authorities are not updating me. They said they sent a letter to Interpol in Iran to get an answer from them. So they told me I have to wait until Iran Interpol answers,” she said. 
Bahari also said she was not feeling well and had been examined by a doctor at the airport on Tuesday. She did not provide details of her ailment.
Bahari has consistently said the assault and battery case against her is fake, and Tehran was targeting her for supporting an opposition politician and violating traditional values by taking part in beauty pageants and speaking for women’s rights.
In January, she appeared at a pageant carrying a picture of Reza Pahlavi, an Iranian opposition leader and founder of the National Council of Iran.
“I have used his photo in a beauty pageant and the Iranian government are angry with me,” Bahari said, adding: “If I am deported to Iran, they will give me at least 25 years in jail, if they do not kill me.”
Tehran has not commented on Bahari’s statements. 
Bahari said last week that she had traveled to the Philippines after a vacation in Dubai, where she did not encounter any problems with immigration authorities, adding that she was surprised when she was intercepted at the airport in Manila and informed that she was on an Interpol list.
Bahari said her lawyer “had checked all records in the Philippines and with Interpol,” but there was no record against her.
The beauty queen has denied committing any crimes in Iran, or in the Philippines where she has been studying dentistry since 2014.
The Philippines Department of Justice (DoJ) Undersecretary and spokesperson Mark Perete said in a statement last week that Bahari remained in custody at the airport and “could not be sent back to Iran because she has filed an application for asylum.”
The DoJ would resolve her asylum application “in due time,” Perete added.