Hong Kong airport cancels all flights as protesters flood terminal
Hong Kong airport cancelled all remaining flights on Monday afternoon after thousands of protesters flooded the main terminal of the international aviation hub in the worst blow to the territory’s economy since anti-government protests began more two months ago.
The move, in which protesters chanted slogans and criticised police for violence during rallies on Sunday, came as authorities in Beijing said the demonstrators had begun displaying “early signs of terrorism”.
The anti-government protests, sparked by a proposed bill that would allow extradition of suspects to mainland China for the first time, have plunged Hong Kong into its worst political crisis since the UK handed the former colony over to China in 1997.
Protesters turned up in force at the airport on Monday after police fired tear gas into two subway stations and fired non-lethal rounds directly at civilians from short range on Sunday night following clashes with demonstrators.
Hong Kong International Airport said in a statement on Monday afternoon that check-in services for all flights had been suspended and all other flights had been cancelled for the rest of the day.
Later in the afternoon, the airport advised all passengers to leave the terminal buildings “as soon as possible” while its website showed more than 140 into and out of the world’s third most-trafficked aviation hub had been cancelled.
Earlier in the day a spokesman for China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office reiterated Beijing’s support for the territory’s government in cracking down on the protests.
“Hong Kong has already reached an important crossroads and all those who care about its future should step up and say no to all violent elements,” said Yang Guang, spokesman for the office. Mr Yang said protesters’ behaviour had “already constituted serious violent crimes and have begun to show early signs of terrorism”.
In a press conference on Monday afternoon, top Hong Kong officials condemned protesters. Frank Chan, secretary for transport and housing, said protesters had “totally disrupted” operations at the airport while Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, the chief secretary, accused protesters of “destroying Hong Kong”.
Meanwhile, the Global Times, a state-run Chinese newspaper, published video on Twitter of police forces assembling on the mainland’s border with Hong Kong, feeding into fears that China could send mainland police or the People’s Liberation Army into the former British colony.
The nationalist tabloid said it had obtained the footage “in advance of apparent large-scale exercises”. Experts say deployment of the PLA in Hong Kong would be a “financial disaster” for the territory, which serves as a nexus for China’s more closed economy and international capital.
Local media reported on Monday that some people were walking to the airport after they were unable to board buses and trains that were packed with protesters.
Additional reporting by Eli Meixler and Jade Li