Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Friday measures announced this week to help restore order in the Chinese-ruled city were a first step as thousands gathered outside a subway station in renewed protest after months of sometimes violent unrest.
The crowds are expected to swell into the night, as the Asian financial hub braces for weekend demonstrations aiming to disrupt transport links to the airport after Lam’s withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill failed to appease some activists.
The airport announced that only passengers with tickets would be allowed to use the Airport Express train service on Saturday, boarding in downtown Hong Kong. The train would not stop en route, on the Kowloon peninsula. Bus services could also be hit, it said.
The measures are aimed at avoiding the chaos of last weekend, when protesters blocked airport approach roads, threw debris on the train track and trashed the MTR subway station in the nearby new town of Tung Chung in running clashes with police.
“The four actions are aimed at putting one step forward in helping Hong Kong to get out of the dilemma,” Lam told reporters during a trip to China’s southern region of Guangxi. “We can’t stop the violence immediately.”
Lam on Wednesday withdrew a controversial extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial in courts controlled by its ruling Communist Party and announced three other measures to help ease the crisis, including a dialogue with the people.
Global credit rating agency Fitch Ratings on Friday downgraded Hong Kong’s long-term foreign currency issuer default rating to “AA” from “AA+”.
Fitch said it expects that public discontent is likely to persist despite the concessions to certain protester demands.
Demonstrations, sometimes violent, have gripped the former British colony for three months, at times paralyzing parts of the city amid running street battles between protesters and police whose violence has drawn international attention.
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel raised the issue of Hong Kong with Chinese premier Li Keqiang in Beijing, saying a peaceful solution was needed.
“I stressed that the rights and freedoms for (Hong Kong) citizens have to be granted,” Merkel said.