Date
21 August 2019
Passengers queue at check-in counters on Tuesday as the Hong Kong airport reopened a day after flights were halted due to a mass sit-in by anti-government protesters. Photo: Reuters
Passengers queue at check-in counters on Tuesday as the Hong Kong airport reopened a day after flights were halted due to a mass sit-in by anti-government protesters. Photo: Reuters

Hong Kong airport reopens after unprecedented closure

Hong Kong airport reopened on Tuesday following an unprecedented closure the previous day after thousands of anti-government protesters occupied the arrival and departure halls of the main terminal.

Announcing the reopening, the airport operator, however, warned that flight movements could still be affected, Reuters reports.

“Hong Kong International Airport will implement flight rescheduling today with flight movements expected to be affected,” the Airport Authority said in a notice published on the airport’s official mobile app at 6 am local time.

The airport, one of the world’s busiest, blamed demonstrators for halting flights on Monday.

The exact trigger for the airport’s closure was not clear because protesters occupying the arrivals hall for the past five days have been peaceful.

Most had left shortly after midnight, with about 50 protesters still there on Tuesday morning.

A Reuters reporter saw more than 100 travelers queuing up at Cathay Pacific’s ticketing counter early on Tuesday.

Protesters had staged a sit-in at the arrival area since Friday afternoon and had been expected to wrap up the generally peaceful event after three days.

But following violent clashes across the city on Sunday night, a much bigger crowd of protesters returned to the airport on Monday.

Airport authorities said the public assembly has “seriously disrupted” operations at the terminal.

The protesters condemned the police for firing tear gas and bean-bag rounds at close range during Sunday’s clashes, which resulted in injuries.

Hong Kong’s protests, which began in opposition to a proposed law that would allow extraditions to mainland China, have morphed into a broader movement to protect the territory’s autonomy and freedoms.

The increasingly violent demonstrations have plunged Hong Kong into its most serious crisis in decades, presenting Chinese leader Xi Jinping with one of his biggest challenges since he came to power in 2012.

“Hong Kong has come to a critical juncture,” a spokesman for the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs office said in Beijing on Monday.

“Protesters have been frequently using extremely dangerous tools to attack the police in recent days, constituting serious crimes with sprouts of terrorism emerging,” spokesman Yang Guang said.

China had earlier used the threat of terrorism to justify tough measures in its regions of Xinjiang and Tibet, which have been criticized by rights groups and Western governments, Reuters noted.

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RC

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