Hong Kong MTR Temporarily Shuts Down Stations in Attempt to Stop Protesters From Gathering

By Jeremy Sandberg

HONG KONG—Metro authorities forced citizens in the Kwun Tong district to find other means of transportation on Aug. 24 after temporarily closing some train stations an hour before a scheduled protest.

The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) frustrated civilians and protesters, shutting down four stations an hour before a march in the area was planned to start, leaving people inconvenienced and upset.

“As soon as the Communist Party just spoke two days before, MTR took lots of measures to cooperate with the government and the police,” said Nathan, a protester. “We see this as serious corruption.”

Beijing Influence

The government-owned MTR applied for a temporary injunction to partially suspend service citing public safety, two days after the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission accused the MTR of “assisting rioters.”

“We consider MTR to be taking sides with the government as to stopping people to join the march and suppressing our voices,” said Nathan.

Protesters said they are disturbed by the MTR’s stance and cooperation with police after they fired tear gas inside a station.

“I get why they are doing this because they don’t want people to come in here and protest,” said Miss Wong, another protester. “But this is outrageous, they close down the MTR at 12 noon.”

Protesters’ Concerns

The protests started in June in opposition to a proposed extradition bill that would enable individuals to be transferred to China for trial, instead of going through due legal process in Hong Kong first. There is widespread concern that, if passed, the law could be used to silence and punish any critics of the Chinese communist regime.

“In fact, they are making something unlawful, lawful,” said Nathan. “And that’s the ugly part about it.”

Many Hong Kongers are concerned their freedom will be restricted. Protesters have five demands for the Hong Kong government: They want the suspended extradition bill to be fully withdrawn; for authorities to retract their previous characterization of protesters as rioters; arrested protesters to be exonerated and released immediately; an independent inquiry into police use of force to be established; and universal suffrage.

“We as the civilian, we can only choose to express our voice,” said Nathan. “This might be our last chance.”

“I think if I cannot protect Hong Kong, I will never have a chance to do it like this,” said Mr. Liu, a protester. “I think it’s our duty to do it as a Hong Kong citizen to protect our freedom.”