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Traffic in Hong Kong was paralyzed on Wednesday as key roads were blocked with bricks, bicycles, couches and other materials laid out by protesters overnight and the MTR Corp suspended train services in most stations in Kowloon and the New Territories.
A citywide strike stretched into a third day Wednesday with protesters damaging MTR facilities and throwing more debris and bricks onto key roads in the morning.
Some train services that had been suspended early in the morning resumed – including partial services on the Kwun Tong line – although Mong Kok station and all stops from Kwun Tong to Tiu Keng Leng were still out of commission by mid-afternoon.
East Rail lines were closed in the early morning. People formed long queues at bus stops to try to go to work.
At about 11:30am, services on the entire Tsuen Wan line were suspended because people had been obstructing services at multiple stations, RTHK reported.
In Tseung Kwan O line, trains ran between Lohas Park and North Point and skipped Hang Hau, Po Lam, Lam Tin and Yau Tong stations as facilities there had been damaged. Bus companies said they could only provide limited services as many roads were blocked. Some passengers in Tuen Mun had to wait for more than half an hour for a bus.
Hong Kong’s subway is normally used by more than half the city’s 7.5 million people daily.
Kevin Yeung, the Secretary for Education, defended the government’s decision not to suspend school classes on Wednesday. He said the traffic situation could vary from one district to another, and parents should decide for themselves whether to send their children to school.
The Professional Teachers’ Union was advising parents not to send their children to school on Wednesday as it deemed it to be too dangerous due to the social unrest.
It said police had been firing large amounts of tear gas and using pepper spray, and this might pose a risk to young children.
It also criticized Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who had said on Tuesday that she didn’t want to suspend classes because she could not allow Hong Kong to come to a standstill.
While many parents were struggling to decide if they should send their children to school, some primary and secondary schools decided to suspend classes. Some school bus companies also announced that they could not provide services due to safety reasons.
On Wednesday, the government announced that all schools would be closed on Thursday, according to RTHK.
People in the New Territories also failed to reach Kowloon as the Tolo Highway was shut down. On Tuesday evening, riot police and protesters had a stand-off on a bridge connecting the campus of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Police fired tear gas and complained that students had thrown debris and petrol bombs from the bridge onto the Tolo Highway and threatened traffic safety.
On Wednesday, riot police kept a heavy presence at multiple stations. Frustrations boiled over at Yau Tong MTR Station, with commuters snapping at police on the platform. Officers responded with several bursts of pepper spray at close range.
Riot police also ordered people to leave the station, as services were suspended.
Meanwhile Dorta, a tourist from Poland, said the Hong Kong protesters were brave for holding protests and fighting for democracy.
She was told by some young people that it’s better to do something than nothing, even though they would get nothing in the end. She agreed with such a spirit.
However, she disagreed with the protesters’ vandalism on banks. She said when Polish people fought against the communists in the past, they did not vandalize things.
She said she had protested against the communists for 10 years and had been beaten up on the streets and arrested once and detained for 24 hours.
She said she did not know much about Hong Kong, but had followed the story, mainly via the BBC. She said she had seen videos about the arrested protesters being abused, but not the video showing the man being set on fire. She said she will spend one week in Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, AFP reported that a group of mainland students at CUHK attempted to depart the campus Wednesday morning over safety concerns, but had to be shuttled away by boat because they were unable to leave via obstructed roads, the police said.
“The police decided to deploy a police launch to assist the group of students to go to a safe location,” the force said.
Images on local outlet Stand News showed dozens of people – some carrying luggage – standing next to a vessel with police markings, purportedly fleeing the campus.