Monday, 18 November, 2019

Clashes At Hong Kong Airport After Flights Disrupted For Second Day

Hong Kong's Airport Reopens After Protests But Over 200 Flights Cancelled Clashes intensify between protesters and police at Hong Kong airport during second day of shutdown
Russell Knight | 14 August, 2019, 13:08

The protests represent one of the biggest challenges for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.

Large-scale demonstrations against the government had forced the airport to temporarily cancel large parts of its flight schedule on Monday and Tuesday, as thousands of protesters filled both the arrival and departure halls. Protesters also barricaded some passageways in the airport with luggage trolleys and other objects.

China's civil aviation regulator demanded that the airline suspend staff who joined or backed the protests from flights in its airspace, pushing the carrier's shares past Monday's 10-year low.

A few dozen protesters remained at the airport early in the day while workers scrubbed it clean of blood and debris from overnight. Check-in counters reopened to queues of hundreds of tired travellers who had waited overnight for their flights.

Hong Kong police said they arrested five people during clashes with pro-democracy protesters at the airport on Tuesday night.

Hong Kong's Airport Authority said on Wednesday it had obtained "an interim injunction to restrain persons from unlawfully and willfully obstructing or interfering" with airport operations.

Statements of apology from protesters were displayed in the airport on Wednesday, promising to allow passengers to depart, to assist medical staff to carry out their duties and not to hinder the work of the press.

The Communist Party's official People's Daily newspaper said on the Twitter-like Weibo that the force can handle incidents including riots or terrorist attacks - an apparent warning to the protesters.

Hong Kong legal experts say Beijing might be paving the way to use anti-terrorism laws to try to quell the demonstrations.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 2.1 percent in its third straight day of losses as China's official Xinhua news agency said the economic "damage has begun to show" from weeks of protest.

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Mr Trump on Tuesday said his intelligence had confirmed Chinese troops were gathering across the border. Trump's tweet about military movements was likely referring to the current U.S. assessment that China has positioned some mobile forces along the border at what appear to be potential staging locations, according to multiple officials.

However, multiple USA officials also told CNN that troop movement near the Hong Kong border is a tactic they expected from Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is laying the groundwork, they say, in case intervention is needed.

On Monday, Pelosi, a Democrat, tweeted that she was alarmed to see the Hong Kong police, "with support from Beijing, intensify their use of force against the protesters and label them violent criminals".

Chinese state media, however, has stopped short of calling for military action to deal with the protests.

Hong Kong is now under a "one country two systems" principle, making it independent of China's legal systems and police force.

Embattled Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday the "lawbreaking activities in the name of freedom" were damaging the rule of law and that it could take a long time for the city to recover from the protests.

"Extreme political ideas have found frequent expression in Hong Kong, with some even raising "Hong Kong independence" slogans recently". But Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the lawmakers' comments "provided new and powerful evidence to the world".

Chinese state media has also posted messages of support for the Hong Kong police, describing what was happening in the city as "a shame".

The editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times newspaper, Hu Xijin, tweeted that the man was a journalist with the paper.

Earlier this week, the central government in Beijing issued an ominous characterisation of the protest movement as something approaching "terrorism" a label it routinely applies to nonviolent protests of government policies on the environment or in minority regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet.

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