Hong Kong’s airport suspended check-in services for departing flights on Tuesday as protesters pushing for democratic reforms took over the terminals for the second day.
Flights that had already completed their check-ins were allowed to take off and the airport authority said it did not expect arriving flights to be affected – though dozens were already canceled.
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The airport’s arrival and departure halls were blocked by thousands of demonstrators who descended on the airport for the fifth day in a row to call for reforms in the Chinese territory and an independent probe into alleged police brutality.
“Terminal operations at Hong Kong International Airport have been seriously disrupted, and all check-in processes have now been suspended,” a statement on the airport website said.
“All passengers are advised to leave the terminal buildings as soon as possible.”
The statement reversed a previous announcement that said all departing flights had been canceled.
On Monday, a Chinese official said “terrorism” was emerging in the former British colony, while in Hong Kong authorities demonstrated a water cannon for use in crowd control.
Carrie Lam, the territory’s chief executive, warned Tuesday that violence was pushing Hong Kong in a dangerous direction.
“Violence, no matter if it’s using violence or condoning violence, will push Hong Kong down a path of no return, will plunge Hong Kong society into a very worrying and dangerous situation,” she said, according to the UK’s Guardian.
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Lam, who appeared to be on the verge of tears, appealed for calm.
“Take a minute to think, look at our city, our home, do you all really want to see it pushed into an abyss,” Lam said.
But she again refused to make any concessions to the protesters, many of whom gathered at the airport and shouted, “Stand with Hong Kong, fight for freedom!”
On Monday, over 200 flights were canceled and the airport was effectively shut down with no flights taking off or landing, forcing stranded passengers to seek accommodation in the city.
The airport protests are a sharp 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 the territory.