Published on : Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Pro-democracy demonstrators severely crippled operations at Hong Kong’s international airport for a second day Tuesday, forcing authorities to cancel the remaining flights as the city’s pro-Beijing leader warned that the protesters had pushed events onto a “path of no return”.
After a brief period early in the day when flights were able to take off and land, the airport authority suspended check-in services for departing flights 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, although dozens were already cancelled. The authority advised people not to come to the airport, one of the world’s busiest transport hubs.
More than 200 flights were cancelled on Monday and the airport was effectively shut down with no flights taking off or landing. Passengers have been forced to stay 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.
The protests have built on an opposition movement that shut down much of the city for seven weeks in 2014 before it eventually fizzled and its leaders were jailed on public disturbance charges.
The central government in Beijing has ominously characterised the current protest movement as something approaching “terrorism” that poses an “existential threat” to citizens.
While Beijing tends to define terrorism broadly, extending it especially to nonviolent movements opposing government policies in minority regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang, its use of the term in relation to Hong Kong raised the prospect of greater violence and the possible suspension of legal rights for those detained.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the instability, chaos and violence have placed the city on a “path of no return.”
The early protests were in specific neighbourhoods near government offices. However, the airport protest has had a direct impact on business travel and tourism. Analysts said it could make foreign investors think twice about setting up shop in Hong Kong, which has long prided itself as being Asia’s leading business city with convenient air links across the region.
“I don’t think I will ever fly to Hong Kong again,” said Kerry Dickinson of South Africa.
The protesters held up signs in Chinese and English to appeal to travellers from mainland China and elsewhere. “Democracy is a good thing,” said one sign in simplified Chinese characters, which are used in mainland China instead of the traditional Chinese script of Hong Kong.
Adding to the protesters’ anger, Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways told employees the carrier has a “zero tolerance” for them joining “illegal protests” and warned they could be fired.
Tags: Hong Kong Airport