Palace 'advice' to travelers: 'Avoid' Hong Kong for now

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 13 2019 03:03 PM | Updated as of Aug 14 2019 10:44 AM

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam meets petitioners outside her office in Hong Kong, China. Thomas Peter, Reuters

MANILA -- Filipinos should "avoid" going to Hong Kong due to ongoing pro-democracy protests, Malacañang said Tuesday, as it stopped short of issuing a travel ban.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued the "advice" to travelers, as protests intermittently shut the Hong Kong International Airport.

"This is not the right time to go there kasi iyung flight mo biglang naka-cancel (because your flight might suddenly get canceled). Avoid muna going there, that’s the advice," he told reporters. 

"Limited lang naman ang gulo sa airport (The chaos is limited to the airport)," reasoned Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

Hundreds of arriving and departing flights from the Hong Kong airport were canceled on Monday afternoon after more than 5,000 black-clad pro-democracy protesters staged a peaceful rally at the building. 

Throughout the evening, protesters gradually left the airport, but there was no police operation to clear them by force. 

By Tuesday morning, many of the posters and signs the protesters had placed throughout the terminals had been taken down, but graffiti -- some reading "an eye for an eye" -- had not yet been cleared. 

The protesters adopted the slogan for their demonstration at the airport after a women suffered a serious face injury, reportedly losing her sight in one eye, at demonstrations that turned violent on Sunday night. 

The development came 10 weeks into a crisis that has seen millions of people take to Hong Kong's streets in the biggest challenge to Chinese rule of the semi-autonomous city since its 1997 handover from Britain. 

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam warned Tuesday of the dangerous consequences facing the city, one of Asia's most important financial hubs, if escalating violence at the rallies was not curbed.

"Violence, no matter if it's using violence or condoning violence, will push Hong Kong down a path of no return, will plunge Hong Kong society into a very worrying and dangerous situation," Lam said.

"The situation in Hong Kong in the past week has made me very worried that we have reached this dangerous situation."

Lam, who faced fierce questioning from local reporters and at one point appeared to be on the verge of tears, appealed for calm.

"Take a minute to think, look at our city, our home, do you all really want to see it pushed into an abyss," Lam said, although she again refused to make any concessions to the protesters.

CHINA WARNS ON TERRORISM 

Anti-extradition bill protesters rest as the airport reopened a day after flights were halted due to a protest, at Hong Kong International Airport, China. Issei Kato, Reuters

The protests began in opposition to a bill that would have allowed extraditions to the mainland, but quickly evolved into a broader bid to reverse a slide of rights and freedoms in the southern Chinese city.

The demonstrations have become increasingly violent, with police using tear gas and rubber bullets, and protesters sometimes hurling bricks and bottles.

Authorities in Beijing on Monday slammed violent protesters who threw petrol bombs at police officers, linking them to "terrorism".

"Hong Kong's radical demonstrators have repeatedly used extremely dangerous tools to attack police officers, which already constitutes a serious violent crime, and also shows the first signs of terrorism emerging," said Yang Guang, spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council.

Hours later, two state media outlets ran videos showing armored personnel and troop carriers purportedly driving to Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong.

China's state-run media on Tuesday then sought to ramp up the pressure.

"Black-clad mobsters have created an atmosphere of terror on the Hong Kong streets," the official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary.

A senior official in the administration of US President Donald Trump on Monday urged "all sides" to avoid violence in Hong Kong.

"Societies are best served when diverse political views are respected and can be freely and peacefully expressed," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Hong Kong is home to 230,000 Filipinos, most of whom are domestic workers, the Philippine Consulate earlier said.

Earlier this month, a Filipino was arrested for wearing a black shirt like that worn by thousands of protesters who clashed with riot police, said Germinia Aguilar-Usudan, deputy Philippine consul general in Hong Kong. 

- With a report from Agence France-Presse