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Hong Kong braces for airport protests as countries including Singapore issue travel advisories

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In a bid to find new ways to spread their message, protesters are planning to gather at the arrival hall of Hong Kong International Airport in Lantau to reach foreigners visiting the city.

[HONG KONG] Hong Kong is on Friday (July 26) bracing for a demonstration in its airport, one of Asia's busiest, as more countries including Singapore issued travel advisories for the city.

In a bid to find new ways to spread their message, protesters are planning to gather at the arrival hall of Hong Kong International Airport in Lantau to reach foreigners visiting the city.

The Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendant's Union said in a Facebook post on Thursday that they would take part in a sit-in during Friday's action at the airport, reminding members to watch out for each other.

Police have so far not given approval for the gathering.

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Recent mass rallies have started out peaceful but escalated into violence later at night after smaller groups of protesters stay behind to clash with the police.

On Sunday, attendees had marched past the designated end point in Wanchai, heading west of Hong Kong Island towards Sai Ying Pun where they vandalised Beijing's liaison office in the city.

Riot police later fired 55 rounds of tear gas, along with rubber bullets and foam rounds to disperse protesters.

As the street battle raged, some 30km away in the rural Yuen Long district, mobs dressed in white and armed with sticks and batons attacked passersby at the metro station.

Forty five people were injured in the incident and police have since arrested 12, some of whom have gang affiliations.

Hong Kong's police have also cited last weekend's violence as a reason for their objection of a rally in Yuen Long planned for Saturday.

They said that online calls for retaliation against villagers in the area - where Sunday's attackers are believed to have come from - have led law enforcement to believe that the proposed rally could end in violence.

The chairman of a rural committee representing villagers in Yuen Long has also warned protesters not to storm villages and damage ancestral halls.

"We won't make trouble, but we won't walk away from trouble," said Mr Ching Chan-ming, adding that villagers will protect their homes if provoked.

Organiser Max Chung told The Straits Times that he would be appealing the decision on Friday, but is not confident of a positive outcome.

Online, anti-government protesters are suggesting creative alternatives to a mass gathering in Yuen Long to circumvent police rules. These range from a mass shopping day to a "memorial service" for former Chinese premier Li Peng who died on Monday.

In an advisory issued in the wee hours of Friday, Singapore's foreign affairs ministry encouraged travellers to avoid the Hong Kong airport beginning 1pm on Friday, as well as Yuen Long on Sunday.

"Protests which are meant to be peaceful may still have the potential to turn violent with little or no notice," the Ministry said.

Singapore joins several other countries including Canada, Japan and South Korea which have issued such advisories while Ireland has been the first country to issue a travel warning for Hong Kong.

THE STRAITS TIMES