Protesters held a demonstration at the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) on Sunday in response to the construction of the airport’s third runway. Land reclamation for the project is set to begin on Monday.

Passengers will pay up to HK$180 per trip for the new runway, which is estimated to cost HK$141.5 billion and take up 650 hectares of surface area, according to Apple Daily.

Under the scheme, long-haul passengers are expected to pay HK$160 and HK$180 for economy and business or first class tickets, respectively. Short-haul departing passengers are expected to pay HK$60 and HK$90 for economy and business or first class tickets respectively, while short-haul transit passengers will pay under the same scheme, but the fee in economy class will be set at HK$70.

Demonstrators at the Hong Kong International Airport. Photo: SocRec.

Protesters called for the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK) to suspend land reclamation as well as to stop charging passengers as a means to subsidise the third runway. Environmental groups also expressed concern over the construction’s effect on the habitat of Chinese white dolphins.

According to Apple Daily, around 60-70 people attended Sunday’s protest, including members of environmental protection NGO Green Sense, concern group No 3rd Runway and the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society.

Roy Tam Hoi-pong, environmental protection activist and district councillor, criticised the AAHK for starting construction before the court has delivered a verdict on whether the action is permitted or not. In May, Tam said that a total of five judicial review cases or appeals were being planned against the construction.

Samuel Hung Ka-yiu, chairman of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society, said that the Chinese white dolphins had already been affected by the construction of HKIA and that the marine animal would be the ones “paying the price” for the third runway that is currently under construction.

The proposed third runway. Photo: Gov HK.

The Airport Authority said that the court had come to a verdict with regards to the authority’s right to charge fees from passengers, which allowed AAHK to gather funds for the third runway. The authority added that it would not comment further on the court case as proceedings are ongoing.

The AAHK hosted an opening ceremony to kick off the construction on Monday, without arranging for media coverage, reported Apple Daily.

The third runway system. Photo: Airport Authority

In May, the Airport Authority said it expected around 70 per cent of passengers departing from the HKIA to pay an airport construction fee of HK$90 or less.

AAHK added that the fee will remain in effect until all costs related to the third runway system project have been fully repaid, which could take until 2031. The rate will remain unchanged throughout the collection period.

Greg Wong Chak-yan, president for The Hong Kong Institution of Engineers, estimated that the land reclamation would begin six months from the present time and be completed by 2020. Wong also said that the third runway may open in 2023.

Gene Lin

Gene Lin is a Journalism and Computer Science student at The University of Hong Kong. He worked as a reporter for the 'LIVE: Verified Updates' during the Occupy Central protests. He is also an editor at HKU's first English-language student paper, The Lion Post.