Protesters reoccupy Hong Kong airport, disrupting flights - WASHINGTON POST

AUGUST 13, 2019

Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters block the departure gates during another demonstration against police brutality and a controversial extradition bill at Hong Kong's international airport on Tuesday. (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images) By Gerry Shih Timothy McLaughlin

Anti-government protesters brought chaos to Hong Kong’s airport for a second consecutive day Tuesday, forcing airlines to suspend check-in for departing flights, as the demonstrators extended their standoff with authorities who have been unable to quell months of dissent.

After mass cancellations the previous evening, flights had been gradually returning to normal throughout Tuesday, though still with disruptions, as thousands of black-clad demonstrators sat in the terminal with placards denouncing police brutality and calling for freedom for Hong Kong.

But by early evening, with protesters using luggage carts as barricades and blocking departing passengers, airport authorities said they were “temporarily suspending” check-in at both terminals.

Arguments erupted between passengers and protesters, with some passengers crying and saying they just wanted to get home.

Meanwhile, some protesters chanted “return the eye” — a reference to an incident Sunday night when a young woman was shot in the eye, possibly by a bean bag round, when police clashed with protesters. Senior officers said Tuesday they were unsure how the woman was injured but couldn’t promise that she wouldn’t be charged with rioting.

Police said they were closely monitoring the situation at the airport, working with airport authorities, and would carefully consider the need to use force.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s leader, said the city risked being “pushed into an abyss.”

As the summer of unrest rolls on, the situation is becoming increasingly tense. Statements from Chinese government officials and state media have grown steadily more shrill, accusing protesters of “terrorism” and warning of an impending crackdown in the semiautonomous financial center.

Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific, which has recently drawn the ire of Beijing after some of its staff joined protests, said Tuesday a second pilot from the airline was suspended. The pilot, a second officer working on a flight Tuesday from Manchester to Hong Kong, was suspended for “misuse of company information in violation of the company’s internal code of conduct,” the company said in a statement. It added that internal disciplinary proceedings were underway.

On Saturday, Hong Kong’s flagship airline said it had suspended a pilot who was arrested during earlier protests.

International calls grew, meanwhile, for authorities in Hong Kong and China to dial back tensions in the city.

Chris Patten, the last British governor of colonial Hong Kong before the city’s return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, warned that a Chinese intervention would be a “catastrophe” for both Hong Kong and China.

Speaking to BBC radio, he urged Lam and Chinese leader Xi Jinping to find a way to bring people together.

“There is a degree of frustration and anger at the government refusing to give any sensible ground at all which probably provokes more violence,” Patten said.

Anna Kam contributed to this article.


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