Hong Kong authorities cancelled all remaining flights out of the city after protesters took over the terminals and crippled operations at the international airport Tuesday. Immigration counters too were shut down after the anti-government protesters blocked the entrance. The protesters set up a long barricade made of luggage trolleys at one of the main security gates, then stood up to block passengers who sought to get through.
Violent protests have rocked the Asian financial hub and pose a serious challenge to the central government in Beijing. On Monday more than 200 flights were cancelled and the airport was effectively shut down with no flights taking off or landing. Many passengers have been forced to find accommodation in the city while airlines struggle to find other ways to get them to their destinations.
The recent demonstrations and airport protests are an extension of a summer of demonstrations aimed at what many Hong Kong residents perceive 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.
Beijing has stridently labelled the protests as something akin to “terrorism” that posed an “existential threat” to the local citizenry. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has said that the ongoing instability, chaos and violence have placed the city on a “path of no return”.
“Violence, no matter if it’s using violence or condoning violence, will push Hong Kong down a path of no return,” Lam was quoted as saying by AFP. “The situation in Hong Kong in the past week has made me very worried that we have reached this dangerous situation,” she added.
UN rights chief calls for independent probe into use of force by police
Meanwhile, the UN rights chief today raised concern over the use of force against protesters, calling for an impartial probe. A spokesperson for Michelle Bachelet told AFP that the rights chief is calling for “prompt, independent, impartial investigation” into alleged excessive force by police against the protesters.
“World is watching”: US Senate Republican leader’s warning to China
The protests also evoked a sharp response from US Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who warned China that any violent crackdown on protests would be “completely unacceptable”. “The people of Hong Kong are bravely standing up to the Chinese Communist Party as Beijing tries to encroach on their autonomy and freedom,” McConnell wrote in tweet. “Any violent crackdown would be completely unacceptable. … The world is watching.”