Pro-democracy protests close down Hong Kong airport

Flights cancelled as protesters occupy main terminal after dozens hurt in clashes with police
Pro-democracy protests close down Hong Kong airport

One of the pro-democracy protesters who gathered against police brutality and the controversial extradition bill at Hong Kong's international airport on Aug. 12. Hong Kong airport authorities cancelled all remaining departing and arriving flights at the major travel hub on Aug. 12, after thousands of protesters entered the arrivals hall to stage a demonstration. (Photo by Manan Vatsyayana/AFP)

Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong reached a new peak on Aug. 12, with the cancellation of all flights in and out of the international airport.

In unprecedented scenes which were sure to further incense Beijing, the Lantau Island airport, one of the busiest in the world, was brought to a standstill as thousands of protesters joined others who had occupied its main terminal for the fourth straight day.

The massive influx of demonstrators prompted the territory’s Airport Authority to acknowledge it had been forced to act in the face of protests which, it said, had “seriously disrupted” operations.

 

 

“All check-in services for departure flights have been suspended. Other than those departure flights that have completed the check-in process and arrival flights that are already heading to Hong Kong, all other flights have been cancelled for the rest of [Monday],” the operator of the Hong Kong International Airport announced.

Buses packed with protesters also blocked roads leading to the airport, creating gridlock and forcing motorists to abandon their vehicles and finish their journeys by foot in a desperate attempt to make their flights.

The dramatic escalation in the conflict came one day after rising tension between protesters and police in the commercial center of the island and in the Kowloon district.

The night ended with police officers firing tear gas inside one station and charging at protesters inside another.

One of the 40 people who ended up in hospital was a woman reportedly hit with a gas canister. A doctor involved in her case said she could lose the sight in her right eye. 

Some protesters inside the airport wore eye patches in sympathy with her.

One, a 38-year-old businessman, surnamed Wong, told the South China Morning Post that police had “buried their humanity” and added: “A girl who came out for Hong Kongers lost her eye … my heart aches.”

The dramatic escalation came as Hong Kong entered its tenth week of anti-government protests sparked by a now-shelved bill which would allow the authorities to extradite suspects to the mainland. Protesters claim this breaches the territory’s right to judicial independence as guaranteed in the 1997 handover agreement signed when Hong Kong was returned to China by its previous British administration.

There have been nine consecutive weekends of sit-ins, rallies and marches, sieges of police stations and non-cooperation campaigns, all of which have combined to paralyze public transport.

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