U.S. Markets closed

BlackRock postpones Hong Kong media forum by five months after protesters laid siege to airport and disrupted travellers' plans

Chad Bray chadwick.bray@scmp.com

BlackRock, the world's biggest asset manager, has rescheduled its Asia Media Forum set for next month in Hong Kong as protesters disrupted operations at the city's airport for a second consecutive day on Tuesday.

The invitation-only forum, in which journalists meet global and regional executives from the company, was set to take place during the first week of September. It has now been rescheduled to February 2020, BlackRock said.

"The power of this convening lies in the diverse range of perspectives brought together from throughout the region, and we are adjusting the schedule so that as many partners as possible from across Asia are able to join," the company said, without citing the protests.

BlackRock executives and employees have continued to travel to Hong Kong on a regular basis, including for client meetings and discussions, according to a person familiar with the matter.

A number of events, ranging from consumer expositions to tribute concerts, have been cancelled as protests and civil unrest over the past two months have disrupted transit, blocked roads and caused flight cancellations.

Stuart Bailey, the chairman of the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Industry Association, said earlier this month that the second half of the year could be more challenging for its members.

Check-ins suspended as protesters swarm Hong Kong airport for second day

Protesters began amassing in the streets on weekends in June in opposition to a controversial extradition bill that would have made it easier to send criminal suspects to mainland China. The protests have since evolved into a grievances over the city's leadership and the response of the city's police force to the demonstrations.

Clashes between police and protesters have become increasingly violent in recent weeks, with police using tear gas and rubber bullets.

The protests have forced businesses to close on multiple weekends in a variety of neighbourhoods across Hong Kong and are beginning to affect parts of the city's economy, particularly the airline, hotel, property and retail sectors.

Here was the scuffle in T2 @SCMPNews pic.twitter.com/YLX60cwCTP

" Danny Lee (@JournoDannyAero) August 13, 2019

Cathay Pacific said last week that it had seen a double-digit drop in advance sales for travel to Hong Kong in the coming months because of the social unrest. Intercontinental Hotels Group, the owner of Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza hotels, also said its revenue per available room in Hong Kong was down in the second quarter because of the political dispute.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong said last week that smoothly functioning commerce in the city was "fundamentally important" to its members.

Smooth commerce in Hong Kong 'fundamentally important': AmCham

Protesters had occupied the arrivals hall at Hong Kong International Airport beginning on Friday, but thousands swarmed the departures hall on Monday after violent clashes over the weekend that saw police storm two MTR stations in pursuit of retreating protesters, forcing airport operations to be suspended later that afternoon. Additional flights were cancelled on Tuesday and the Airport Authority was forced to suspend check-in for all departing flights in the afternoon as thousands of protesters occupied the check-in area.

Riot police and protesters then clashed violently at the airport on Tuesday night, as airport officials secured a court order to have demonstrators removed from the terminal building. Flight operations have resumed at the airport on Wednesday morning.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2019 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.