HONG KONG – One of the world’s busiest airports, has canceled all flights for the day after thousands of pro-democracy protesters crowded into the main terminal.
Hong Kong International Airport said in a statement Monday afternoon that the demonstration “seriously disrupted” airport operations. It said all check-in services for departing flights had been suspended.
It said only those flights that have already completed the check-in process will move ahead.
Thousands of black-clad protesters on Monday packed the arrival area, where they had gathered for a three-day sit-in that was originally planned to end last night.
The protests, initially sparked by opposition to a bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China, have become increasingly violent in recent weeks.
Demonstrators are Targeting Public Transportation
It was unclear how many flights were impacted, according to Doris Lai, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong Airport Authority.
The airport said in an earlier statement that it was aiming to restore operations as soon as possible after canceling all flights for the rest of the day, except those already in the air.
China stepped up its rhetoric on Monday, saying protesters have committed serious crimes and showed signs of “terrorism.”
Hong Kong has come to a “critical juncture” and all people who care about its future should say no to violence, Yang Guang, a spokesman for its Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, told reporters.
“All those who care about Hong Kong’s future should come out and stand against all criminal acts and perpetrators of violence,” Yang told reporters.
The protests have evolved into the biggest challenge to Chinese control since the U.K. relinquished its former colony in 1997. The social unrest has hurt the economy and impacted daily life in one of the world’s most densely crowded cities, raising concern that Beijing will use force to restore order.
Stoking those fears, the Communist Party-backed Global Times reported on Monday that the Chinese People’s Armed Police have been assembling across the border in Shenzhen ahead of “apparent large-scale exercises.”
Tang Ping-keung, deputy commissioner of police, said it was too early to say whether force would be used to clear the airport. “It will be up to commander to decide” whether to use tear gas, he told reporters.
Police Captured Beating Pro-Democracy Protestors
Authorities had deployed more aggressive tactics during the weekend protests, with riot police video taped beating demonstrators in subway stations and officers going undercover to infiltrate the group and make arrests.
The violent scenes emerged as protesters used flash mobs across the city, surrounding police stations, disrupting traffic, and hurling projectiles including bricks and petrol bombs.
One officer was taken to the hospital after suffering burns in the upmarket shopping district of Tsim Sha Tsui. Mob violence broke out elsewhere.
Police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets at various locations — including inside a metro station for the first time. Dramatic videos showed riot police firing weapons at close range and beating some protesters, many of whom wore yellow hard hats and gas masks.
Some 13 protesters were injured, including two in serious condition, RTHK reported, citing hospital authorities.
Source: Bloomberg, AP