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HK protesters disrupt train services, cause chaos

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HONG KONG : Hundreds of Hong Kong protesters blocked train services during the early morning rush hour yesterday, causing commuter chaos in the latest anti-government campaign to roil the former British colony.

What started three months ago as rallies against an extradition bill that would have allowed people in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China for trial, has now morphed into a wider backlash against the city's government and Beijing.

Activists blocked train doors, playing havoc with services and forcing hundreds of people to stream out of railway stations in search of alternative transport.

"We don't know how long we are going to stay here, we don't have a leader, as you can see this is a mass movement now," said Ms Sharon, a 21-year-old masked protester who declined to give her full name.

"It's not our intention to inconvenience people, but we have to make the authorities understand why we protest."

By mid-morning, commuters were crammed into stations across the city, waiting to board trains that were badly delayed, with no service on some lines.

Rail operator MTR Corp urged people to seek other forms of transport, while public broadcaster RTHK reported that Transport Secretary Frank Chan had called on protesters to stop targeting a rail network that provided transport to five million people daily.

The latest protest follows a demonstration at the Chinese-ruled city's international airport on Friday and violent protests at the weekend when activists clashed with police who fired rubber bullets, tear gas and sponge grenades - a crowd-control weapon.


Some scuffles broke out between commuters and protesters, who gradually began to disperse, while more police were deployed in train stations, where they stopped protesters to search their bags.

Commuters grew increasingly frustrated over the travel disruption, and shops, including bakeries and convenience stores, had also begun to close.

"It's so inconvenient and annoying, really. I am in hurry to work, to make a living. Will you give away your salary to me?" said a 64-year-old man surnamed Liu.

In a related development, Hong Kong authorities will charge 44 protesters detained during recent violent clashes with rioting, a charge that carries up to 10 years in jail, a senior police source said yesterday.