Hong Kong: A top opposition leader imprisoned on public disorder charges was released on bail Thursday as Hong Kong’s government attempts to quell a protest movement that has paralysed parts of the territory, including its international airport, and led to hundreds of arrests.
Benny Tai was sentenced to 16 months as one of nine leaders of a 2014 drive for universal suffrage known as the Umbrella Movement. He was allowed to return home on USD 12,755 cash bail but barred from leaving Hong Kong.
The 2014 movement fizzled, its demands unmet and leaders arrested. However, it laid the groundwork for the new protest movement that began in June with mass opposition to extradition legislation but has since encompassed more sweeping democratic demands.
Flights at Hong Kong’s airport have mostly resumed after being mass demonstrations and spasms of violence on Monday and Tuesday. Police made five arrests Tuesday night.
Those clashes highlighted the hardening positions of pro-democracy protesters and the authorities.
While the movement’s supporters still have street protests planned, it’s unclear what their next move is.
More than 700 protesters have been arrested since early June. Police and the government have pledged to bring all “culprits” to justice and to take “relentless enforcement action to bring the persons involved to justice.” Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific said it had canceled 272 flights, affecting more than 55,000 passengers and had fired two pilots in an apparent response to their involvement in activity related to pro-democracy protests.
They included one pilot who is “currently involved in legal proceedings.” The airline said earlier this week one of its pilots has been charged with rioting after being arrested during a protest.
It said the second fired pilot “misused company information,” but gave no other details. The Hong Kong Free Press reported the pilot posted a photo of a cockpit screen on an online forum used by protesters.
The airport disruptions grew from a summer of demonstrations aimed at what many Hong Kong residents see as an increasing erosion of the freedoms they were promised in 1997 when Communist Party-ruled mainland China took over what had been a British colony.