High Court extends injunction on protests at Hong Kong International Airport ahead of fresh round of demonstrations
- Injunction was imposed on August 13 after protesters brought unprecedented chaos and violence to the airport
- Order renewed ahead of another round of planned action targeting airport on Saturday
A Hong Kong court has indefinitely extended an injunction sought last week by the Hong Kong Airport Authority to prevent anti-government protesters from stalling one of the world’s busiest transport hubs.
On Friday, Mr Justice Wilson Chan Ka-shun granted the extension at the High Court a little more than a week after a five-day mass sit-in, which started as a peaceful occupation but later descended into chaos, with protesters blocking passengers from leaving, scuffling with them, and even holding two mainlanders hostage.
The order was renewed ahead of another round of planned demonstrations targeting the airport on Saturday. The previous interim injunction was due for a review on Friday.
Extending the order, Chan noted that while the disturbance had subsided, the threats to the airport remained, including repeated calls on social media urging others to obstruct and interfere with passengers.
He said the damage to the reputation of the airport and Hong Kong could not be compensated by money.
“The smooth running of the airport is of crucial significance to Hong Kong, in particular the security and safety of its citizens and travellers, its commercial interests, as well as its international reputation,” he said.
“Given the ongoing threat, I have no hesitation in continuing the order,” he said, ruling that it remain in place until further notice.
The Airport Authority went to court on August 13 in a closed-door hearing to seek the order after hundreds of flights were cancelled.
The renewal hearing on Friday was open to the public, in contrast to the first session, which was so secretive that security officers even denied it was happening, and forced reporters to leave the court building.
No party has since come forward to oppose the order, according to lawyers representing the airport operator.
Protesters began to occupy the airport on August 9 to take their cause to an international audience but the sit-in descended into chaos on August 13. There were arguments and scuffles as protesters barricaded departure areas with luggage trolleys to prevent travellers from flying out.
Two mainlanders were detained, zip-tied and assaulted by radical protesters before paramedics could move in to rescue them.
A total of 979 flights were cancelled on Monday and Tuesday last week.
The Airport Authority has sought to stop anyone from “unlawfully and wilfully obstructing or interfering with the proper use” of the airport.
The judge cited an affirmation from an airport staff member saying that “quick access of emergency vehicles and police service response” had been blocked.
He acknowledged there was “a serious issue to be tried” as to whether the occupiers had breached the Airport Authority By-law or caused public nuisance.
On behalf of the authority, Barrister Victor Dawes requested a new term to be added to the original order.
The new version will replace the old notices presently displayed on the walls of the airport and be published in newspapers. It will also be uploaded to the airport’s website.
“Any persons so arrested by the police shall be brought before the court, under lawful arrest or legal processes, as soon as practicable for further directions,” the new version stated.
Airport staff have since put in place various measures to restrict those entering the airport and advised travellers to set aside additional time for check-in.
On Friday, the authority placed advertisements in six local newspapers urging people to “please love Hong Kong’s airport”.
It said operations had largely returned to normal, but it also noticed there had been renewed calls for people to stall traffic leading to the airport.
“The Airport Authority strongly opposes these actions and calls intended to undermine the operations,” the operator said.
The rest of the court order remains unchanged. It bans unlawful and wilful obstruction of the airport and roads nearby, confines any demonstrations or protests “strictly within” two designated areas on two ends of the arrival hall, and bars anyone from “inciting, aiding and/or abetting” any obstructive act. The order also gives the Airport Authority the “liberty to cancel or reduce the size of the protest area” – or extend it. Anyone who violates the order could be sued for contempt of court, a criminal offence that could bring a jail term and fine.
Lawyer Daniel Wong Kwok-tung said the injunction would bar protesters from causing obstructions near the airport on Saturday.
On those who are planning to obstruct roads and railway links leading to the airport, he said: “It will not have any direct relation.” But, he warned that people could still risk breaching the Mass Railway Transit By-law if they tried to block train doors.
However, a spokesman from the authority said: “Blocking roads connecting to the airport may constitute acts of unlawfully and wilfully obstructing or interfering with the proper use of the airport.”