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Hong Kong's main public train system struggles to serve commuters amid protests

Key Points
  • The demonstrations in Hong Kong that started as peaceful rallies have become more violent and sometimes cause disruption to daily commuters using the MTR, the city's underground system.
  • The chief executive of MTR, Jacob Kam, told CNBC on Friday that his company was facing its most serious challenge in its 40-year history, and called for better cooperation from both commuters and protesters.
  • Kam said the company respects protesters' rights to express their views freely but while they're doing so, they should be mindful not to disrupt the rights of people who wish to travel safely.
A protester blocks the MTR from closing as protesters blocked the train doors at Fortress Hill station in Hong Kong.
Anthony Wallace | AFP | Getty Images

Hong Kong's rail system MTR has been disrupted on multiple occasions by demonstrators in the last two months, amid large protests that have plagued the city.

The chief executive of MTR, Jacob Kam, told CNBC on Friday that his company was facing its most serious challenge in its 40-year history, and called for better cooperation from both commuters and protesters.

"MTR's mission is to keep Hong Kong on the move; we want to provide a safe, reliable and a smooth service to all of our customers in Hong Kong, no matter where they want to go," said Kam.

VIDEO3:1803:18
Hong Kong's protests present a 'serious challenge': MTR chief

What started almost three months ago as rallies against an extradition bill allowing people in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China for trial, has now transpired into a wider backlash against the city's embattled leader, Carrie Lam and a movement for democracy. The proposed bill has since been suspended.

On Monday, a city-wide general strike also halted certain lines of the underground transportation.

Protests have occurred almost daily for ten weeks in different locations around the city, and sometimes with very little notice. The demonstrations that started as peaceful rallies have now become more violent and have sometimes caused disruption to daily commuters using the MTR.

A pregnant woman fell ill near the platform of a MTR after protesters blocked the train doors in Hong Kong.
Anthony Wallace | AFP | Getty Images

Kam said the MTR staff have shown their professionalism in attempting to maintain order on the trains and serve their customers but it has been difficult.

He said he hopes commuters will cooperate with his staff. While MTR respects protesters' rights to express their views freely, they should also be mindful not to disrupt the rights of commuters who wish to travel safely, he said.

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