Wuhan virus: Hong Kong protesters disrupt MTR rail services because of government’s handling of outbreak

South China Morning Post

East Rail line, which terminates by the mainland border, hit by delays after objects found on track

South China Morning Post |

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Objects were found on the tracks between Fanling and Sheung Shui, causing delays in MTR service.

Rail services connecting Hong Kong with mainland China were briefly disrupted on Wednesday morning after protesters declared a new wave of strikes over the government's refusal to close the border in response to the Wuhan coronavirus. 

Calls from anti-government activists for citywide action led to the targeting of road and rail, which included dumping a burning object on the tracks of the East Rail line, which links Kowloon with the mainland.

Earlier, protesters had promised the “dawn of anti-epidemic” action if the government did not close the border as part of its response to the coronavirus, which has killed more than 130 on the mainland.

A timeline of the Wuhan coronavirus 

The disruption came a day after the government revealed they would reduce cross-border travel with the rest of China through measures such as the suspension of new visas to individual mainland tourists and the shutdown of two railways, including the high-speed rail service.

An object on fire was thrown onto the track near University station at about 7am, according to a report filed with police.

The city’s rail operator later announced that trains on the East Rail line – a key railway connecting Kowloon and the border points of Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau to the mainland – were running slower than usual because people had accessed the tracks near University station, which is located near Chinese University.

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Objects were also found on the line near several other stations, the MTR Corporation said, including between Fanling and Sheung Shui.

It asked passengers to allow an extra 10 to 15 minutes for their journeys on the East Rail line.

The operator also said a train driver had spotted a traffic cone found on a section of track between Fo Tan and University stations at around 6am.

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“The train needed to stop as to allow staff to clear the track. To play it safe, all passengers on the train had to get off and transfer to the next train at University station,” it said.

At around 8.30am, the rail operator announced services on the East Rail line would gradually return to normal.

In Shau Kei Wan, on Hong Kong Island, roads were blocked near the Tai On Building.

In the early hours of Wednesday, objects such as wooden bars, bamboo sticks and a bicycle were found on the track near Sheung Shui station.

Apart from rail service suspension, flights to and from the mainland would be cut by half and cross-border bus services reduced.

But Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor stopped short of a total closure of the city’s borders demanded by legislators from across the political spectrum.