All passenger flights in and out of Hong Kong were cancelled yesterday after thousands of pro-democracy protesters flooded the city’s airport to denounce police violence.
The abrupt shutdown at one of the world’s busiest hubs came as the Chinese government signalled its rising anger at the protesters, denouncing some of the violent demonstrations as “terrorism”. Authorities said they were working to reopen the airport by 6:00 am today morning (2200 GMT Monday), but hundreds of protesters remained in the arrivals hall well into the night with no sign of leaving.
The developments marked yet another dramatic escalation in a 10-week crisis that had already become the biggest challenge to Chinese rule of Hong Kong since the 1997 British handover. A crowd of protesters that authorities said numbered more than 5,000 descended on Hong Kong airport on Monday carrying placards and chanting slogans about police violence.
Although other rallies had been held at the transport hub over the previous three days, Monday’s was the first to have a significant impact on passengers. The airport authority said operations “have been seriously disrupted as a result of the public assembly”.
At least 150 flights were cancelled at the world’s eighth busiest airport, which handles around 200,000 passengers a day. Hong Kong-based carrier Cathay Pacific warned the disruption could extend into today, and advised customers to “postpone non-essential travel”.
At the airport, protesters held signs reading “Hong Kong is not safe” and “Shame on police”.
They accuse the force of using increasingly violent and disproportionate tactics to suppress protests.