Hong Kong airport cancels Monday flights amid sit-in protest

Authorities say they are suspending departing and arriving flights after thousands of protesters enter arrivals halls.

    Hong Kong airport has suspended all the remaining flights for Monday due to the ongoing pro-democracy protest in its terminal, according to airport authorities.

    Authorities said they were suspending departing and arriving flights at one of the world's busiest travel hubs after thousands of protesters entered the arrivals halls to stage a demonstration.

    "Other than the departure flights that have completed the check-in process and the arrival flights that are already heading to Hong Kong, all other flights have been cancelled for the rest of today," the airport authority said in a statement.

    "Airport operations at Hong Kong International Airport have been seriously disrupted as a result of the public assembly at the airport today," the statement said.

    It said traffic on roads to the airport was very congested and car park spaces were full. "Members of the public are advised not to come to the airport," the statement added.

    Hong Kong Flighradar
    Only a very small number of planes is allowed to land at Hong Kong airport [Screenshot/FlightRadar24]

    Hours later, the airport authority said all passengers were advised to leave the airport as soon as possible.

    Sightings of police officers

    Cherry Yeung, 31, a stay-at-home mother, sat out the weekend sit-in, but after last night's police crackdown, she said she was enraged enough to take action.

    On Monday afternoon, she set off with her 2-year-old boy in tow and armed with a laptop to play footage of police violence for the world to see.

    "I’m very angry at what happened overnight," said Yeung.

    Since midnight Monday authorities cordoned off the departure hall. Soon enough the entire two levels of the main Terminal 1 were totally packed with demonstrators.

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    By 4:30 p.m. word began to circulate on social media app Telegram that there were sightings of dozens of police officers in the airport’s restricted clearance area and a convoy of armoured police vehicles was on the way. Protesters with small children, like Yeung, were urged to leave first.

    "Our government is simply despicable," said Yeung as she evacuated from the airport following the unconfirmed reports.

    "We’ve been most peaceful but the police seems hell-bent to follow their playbook to quash any mass protest."

    Hundreds of black-clad demonstrators have since been retreating on foot on the one of the lanes on the highway out of the airport.

    The airport is home to Cathay Pacific Airway, which has been under mounting pressure from Beijing to ban employees who have participated in protests from serving mainland Chinese routes.

    Last week, Cathay grounded a pilot was charged for being involved in the protests.

    As a result of the protests, Cathay's shares have plunged significantly. 

    Traveller walk at the departure hall as flights information boards displaying numerous flights was cancel ay the Hong Kong International airport, Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. One of the world’s busiest airp
    Hong Kong International airport is one of the world's busiest travel hubs [ Vincent Thian/AP Photo]

    'Sense of outrage' 

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    Al Jazeera correspondent Rob McBride said that over 5,000 protesters have reportedly descended on the airport.

    "There is a sense of outrage here … the police have used their batons, they have fired tear gas … and so, there is a sense of outrage what some are calling police brutality," McBride said.

    "Especially significant is the wounding of a girl, at one of the protests, who may well have lost an eye as a result," he added.

    "The protesters have completely taken over the terminal."

    McBride added that the tougher stance of the Hong Kong police on Sunday was very different from most of the previous weeks.

    "Possibly, it was a way or trying to scare people into not coming out, not taking part in illegal activities. If that is the case, they maybe they may have to think again," McBride said about.

    In response, protesters were seen carrying signs and banners condemning police brutality and calling the police murderers.

    A man looks at the flight information board shows outbound flights was cancel at the Hong Kong International airport, Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. One of the world’s busiest airports cancelled all remaining
    Hong Kong airport has suspended all the remaining flights for Monday [Vincent Thian/AP Photo]

    Worst crisis in decades

    Increasingly restive protests for over two months have plunged Hong Kong into its most serious political crisis in decades and presented a serious challenge to Beijing.

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    The protests, which started over a controversial extradition bill, expanded into wider calls for democratic reforms and an independent inquiry into police conduct during the demonstrations.

    The protest movement's demands also include the resignation of the Chinese territory's leader Carrie Lam and an election for her successor

    Over the weekend, as demonstrators threw up barricades across the city, police shot volleys of tear gas into crowded underground train stations for the first time, and fired bean-bag rounds at close range.

    Scores of protesters were arrested, sometimes after being beaten with batons and bloodied by police. Police have arrested more than 600 people since the unrest began.

    In a response to those skirmishes, Chinese authorities said the protesters in Hong Kong were taking part in "terrorism", AFP news agency reported.

    Meanwhile, in Hong Kong's neighbouring city Shenzhen, the Chinese People's Armed Police has been gathering for what Chinese media are calling an excercise.

    Video obtained by the Global Times shows columns of armoured personnel carriers and other vehicles rolling into the city, which is located only about 30km from Hong Kong.

    Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" principle.

    Under Chinese rule, Hong Kong has been allowed to retain extensive freedoms, such as an independent judiciary, but many residents see the extradition bill as the latest step in a relentless march towards mainland control.

    The protests are the most serious political crisis in Hong Kong since it returned to China 22 years ago.

    With additional reporting by Violet Law in Hong Kong.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies