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Hong Kong protesters launch citywide strike

HONG KONG: Protesters in Hong Kong have launched a rare citywide strike, crippling parts of the city.

The semi-autonomous Chinese territory’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has warned the demonstrations are heading in a “dangerous path”.

Hong Kong police arrested a record of 82 people on Monday. At least eight railway lines, including the airport express, were shut fully or partly.

Protesters were seen blocking entrances to the commuter trains, occasionally leading to fighting with other passengers rushing to their destinations.

An estimated 200 flights were also cancelled on Monday, and only one of two runways in the city’s main airport is operating. Media reports blamed it on aviation workers joining the strike.

A number of protesters also tried to block traffic, causing brief congestion before authorities came to clear the streets of steel and plastic barriers.

Hong Kong police claim to have arrested 420 protesters since June 9, on charges including rioting, unlawful assembly, possessing offensive weapons, assaulting officers and obstructing police operations.

It was also reported that at least 14,000 people from more than 20 sectors committed to the strike, according to organisers – many hiding behind masks for fear of reprisal.

People also indicated their plans online to either strike or phone in sick on Monday – from civil servants and social workers to flight attendants, pilots, bus drivers and even employees of the city’s Disneyland.

In a press conference on Monday morning, Lam said the protests “challenge ‘one country, two systems’ and threaten Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability”.

“The government will be resolute in maintaining law and order of Hong Kong and restoring confidence.”

The protest movement is experimenting with more varied civil disobedience techniques after huge rallies failed to move Beijing.

The semi-autonomous southern Chinese city has witnessed two months of unprecedented protests and clashes triggered by opposition to a planned extradition law that quickly evolved into a wider movement for democratic reform and a halt to sliding freedoms.

On Sunday night, different districts of the city were filled with the sound of protesters erecting and, just as hastily, taking down their improvised barricades.