Protesters severely crippled operations at Hong Kong’s international airport for a second day Tuesday, forcing authorities to cancel all remaining flights out of the city after demonstrators took over the terminals as part of their push for democratic reforms.
After a brief respite early Tuesday during which flights were able to take off and land, the airport authority announced check-in services for departing flights were suspended as of 4:30 p.m. Departing flights that had completed the process would continue to operate.
It said it did not expect arriving flights to be affected, though dozens were already cancelled. The authority advised people not to come to the airport, one of the world’s busiest transport hubs.
On Monday, more than 200 flights were cancelled and the airport was effectively shut down with no flights taking off or landing.
Passengers have been forced to seek accommodation in the city while airlines struggle to find other ways to get them to their destinations.
The airport disruptions are an escalation of a summer of demonstrations aimed at what many Hong Kong residents see as an increasing erosion of the freedoms they were promised in 1997 when Communist Party-ruled mainland China took over what had been a British colony.
Those doubts are fueling the protests, which build on a previous opposition movement that shut down much of the city for seven weeks in 2014. That movement eventually fizzled out and its leaders have been jailed on public disturbance charges.
The central government in Beijing has ominously characterized the current protest movement as something approaching “terrorism” that poses an “existential threat” to the local citizenry.
While Beijing tends to define terrorism broadly, extending it especially to nonviolent movements opposing government policies in minority regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang, the government’s usage of the term in relation to Hong Kong raised the prospect of greater violence and the possible suspension of legal rights for those detained.
Meanwhile, paramilitary police were assembling across the border in the city of Shenzhen for exercises which some saw as a threat to increase force against the mostly young protesters who have turned out in their thousands over the past 10 weeks.
Police have arrested more than 700 protesters since early June and say they have infiltrated the ranks of the demonstrators, leading to concerns that officers were inciting violence. Scores of people have been, both protesters and police, including a woman reported to have had an eye ruptured by a beanbag round fired by police during clashes on Sunday.
Police said they are investigating the incident, which protesters have taken up as a rallying cry. Some of those joining in the airport occupation wore gauze bandages dyed with artificial blood over one eye.
The Associated Press