History has had a lot of examples where small matters can grow into large crises with the fate of entire countries, multiple countries and perhaps even the world at stake. World War I may already have major powers with grievances and lots of tension, but it took a public assassination to set the conflict in motion. Now, the Chinese Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong is gripped in a crisis of its own, stemming from a controversial extradition bill but expanded into protests for more liberties against the iron grip of Beijing. The situation has gotten so bad even the outside world is being affected.
CNN has it that the escalating tensions in Hong Kong has resulted in the delaying or outright cancellation of flights arriving and departing from its international airport, a major blow to global air travel given its distinction as an airline hub. At last count the number of cancellations and delays (as well as delays that became cancellations) has gone to over 100 in all. This comes shortly after a public address by Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong, to address the ongoing period of worker strikes and general unrest in the former British colony.
It was HKCE Lam that had proposed the bill of amendments to the SAR’s extradition law, triggering fears in residents that it would enable the Communist government of mainland China to easily impose its legal system on Hong Kong, pre-empting the post-colonial “One Country, Two Systems” agreement with the UK to maintain the territory’s own laws and economy from the 1997 handover, effective until 2047. The bill spurred the beginning of a new wave of Hong Kong protests more vocal than the pro-democracy “Umbrella Movement” of 2014, a surge that ultimately became violent and encompassed more than the extradition issue.
In response to the protest call demanding her resignation and that of the government, Carrie Lam refused and insisted they will remain in order to oversee a “return to normalcy” in Hong Kong. This pronouncement has triggered more protests despite her promise to engage with the populace in light of the extradition bill debacle. Also unacceptable to the growing demonstrations was her refusal to release arrested protesters. Mentioned here was the HK International Airport disruption, with at minimum some 70 flights from Cathay Pacific, 32 from Hong Kong Airlines and 7 China Airlines flights affected.
With regards to the Philippines, Philippine Airlines saw four cancelled flights to and from Hong Kong while Cebu Pacific had two. Of the 70 Cathay Pacific cancellations, 11 were connecting with Manila, arrival or destination. Cebu Pacific has announced the waiving of rebooking and refund charges for MNL-HK travel dates from August 5 to 7.
Image courtesy of ABS-CBN News