Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (MTR) operator has pleaded for an end to the prolonged violence, in which radical protesters have vandalized dozens of its stations.
Jacob Kam, chief executive officer (CEO) of the MTR Corporation, said over 88 MTR and light rail stations have been damaged by radicals in the past few months that saw violent protests.
"Violence and vandalism have been escalating in the past few months, forcing train services to stop several times," Kam said in an interview with Xinhua.
More than 1,000 pieces of equipment have been damaged and the loss has mounted to nearly 40 million HK dollars (5.1 million U.S. dollars), according to Kam.
With over 90 stations and more than 60 light rail stops, the MTR system handles more than 5.4 million passengers every day, shouldering nearly half of the public transport volume in the Asian financial hub.
The public transport system has been one of the main targets of rioters, who torn down CCTV cameras, vandalized ticketing machines, blocked and set fires to MTR station exits, and forced trains to ground by obstructing carriage doors.
On Sept. 15, MTR stations at Admiralty, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay were forced to close after the rioters smashed the glass inside the stations, damaged and obstructed MTR exits after an illegal rally veered into violence.
The MTR chief said particularly excruciating was the taunting and bullying that the MTR staff suffered as they tried to stop vandalism or separate passengers from violent protesters.
"In one extreme case, the demonstrators stormed into a station, besieged our staff and shouted abusive language to them for six hours," he said.
The company has publicly deplored the violent acts and obtained a court injunction to restrain riotous behaviors and unlawful acts that disrupt the service and damage the property at MTR stations.
However, violent acts continued to grow in severity, prompting the MTR to expand its security team from over 100 people to 500-600.
If violence continues to escalate, the MTR will work closer together with the police and assist the police in enforcing the law, he said.
And while the MTR has stepped up repairs of damaged facilities, the CEO said the damage was so severe and extensive that the deployment of equipment was under great strain.
"People in Hong Kong rely heavily on public transport, especially the MTR, so we are trying our best to maintain the MTR operation," Kam said.