Airport protesters accuse Hong Kong leader of breaching safety rules

HONG KONG, April 17, 2016 (AFP) – More than 1,000 people staged a protest at Hong Kong airport Sunday over an alleged breach of avaiation safety rules involving the baggage of the city leader’s daughter.

It was the latest controversy to hit Beijing-backed Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying since he took office in 2012 in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. His popularity ratings are currently low.

Protesters — including cabin crew, pilots and activists — staged a sit-in at Chek Lap Kok airport’s arrival hall, alleging special treatment for Leung’s family.

They said they were annoyed by an apparent special arrangement which helped 23-year-old Leung Chung-yan after she accidentally left her hand baggage at the check-in counter last month.
Airport staff brought it to her in the restricted zone.

Local media have reported that the chief executive made a phone call to relevant officers before the bag was delivered to the 23-year-old.C.Y. Leung has admitted making a call but denied pressuring staff.

Protesters alleged that Leung misused his power and said the incident could jeopardise aviation safety.
“We are strongly against privileges. We are stressed and annoyed. We cannot stay silent,” Carol Ng, of the Hong Kong Cabin Crew Federation, one of the protest organisers, told AFP.

Slogan-shouting protesters held banners reading “No compromise on professionalism” and “The sky with 100 percent safety”.

They ended the three-hour demonstration by marching around the busy airport terminal as curious travellers recorded the scene with smartphones. Hong Kong was handed over by Britain to China in 1997 under a “One country, two systems” arrangement which guarantees its freedoms for 50 years. But there are fears such freedoms are being eroded due to the increasing behind-the-scenes influence of Beijing.

A government spokesman said the bag of Leung’s daughter had undergone a thorough security check and aviation safety was not affected by the incident.

As with previous leaders since 1997 Leung was picked by an electoral committee dominated by pro-Beijing elites. Since then, he has faced several controversies.

In 2012 he was embroiled in a row stemming from illegal structures at his luxury home. In 2014 the former surveyor was accused of taking a $7 million payment from an Australian company arising from his business before he became the city’s leader. He denied any wrongdoing.