All check-in services suspended after Hong Kong protesters return to airport on Tuesday
The backlog of rescheduled flights continues to build up.
One day after forcing a shutdown of Hong Kong International Airport, pro-democracy protesters have returned to the international transport hub and forced another shutdown.
In a statement released to the media on Aug. 13, airport authorities have announced the suspension of all departure check-in services from 4:30pm, reported AFP.
As @hkairport suspends outbound flights for a second day, there will be legitimate questions over how long the #antiELAB protesters can sustain a war of public opinion. It’s equally legitimate to question how long the Hong Kong government can sustain a “wait it out” strategy pic.twitter.com/HLX8o1eAC0
— Aaron Mc Nicholas (@aaronMCN) August 13, 2019
“Terminal operations at Hong Kong International Airport have been seriously disrupted as a result of the public assembly at the airport today,” the Tuesday statement read.
The statement added that “other departure and arrival flights for the rest of the day will continue to operate”.
Airlines will also be providing arrangements for passengers who yet to complete the departure process.
“Members of the public are advised not to come to the airport.”
Backlog of flights
According to CNA, while only a handful of protesters stayed throughout the night, by the afternoon several hundred demonstrators heeded calls to resume the sit-in.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that the protest’s restart came as airlines were making an effort to clear a backlog of cancelled flights.
The backlog meant that many take-offs were delayed, with more than 300 flights cancelled on Tuesday, Aug. 13, leaving passengers stranded.
Backroom staff working for Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific Airways were asked to leave work at lunchtime, according to SCMP.
“Stand for freedom”
The protesters occupied the airport’s arrival hall from Friday to Sunday, Aug. 9 to 11.
On Monday, they moved to the departure hall, preventing passengers from checking-in or clearing security.
This forced the cancellation of all flights in and out of Hong Kong from 4:00pm on Monday, August 12.
CNA reported that on Tuesday protesters chanted, “Stand with Hong Kong, stand for freedom”, while passengers rushed to catch rescheduled flights.
— Laurel Chor (@laurelchor) August 13, 2019
"Blame #CarrieLam!" #AntiELAB protesters at North departure gate shouted to a disgruntled middle aged male traveler who scolded an @hkairport staff for opening only 2 check in lanes. Now at least 5 lanes are open this side. pic.twitter.com/IFoxRSyfuR
— Xinqi Su (@XinqiSu) August 13, 2019
An international audience
The protests, which were originally in opposition to a now-suspended extradition bill, have since developed into more general demonstrations, including the “five major demands“.
- Withdrawing the bill completely.
- The resignation of the Chief Executive.
- The government must retract the characterisation of the protests as “riots”.
- Full independent inquiry into the actions of the police.
- Everyone arrested with respect to the protests must be freed unconditionally.
Protesters have also been trying to gain an international audience for their demands, including genuine universal suffrage, according to SCMP.
Photos on social media showed scores of protesters leaving the airport by foot on Monday.
— LO Kin-hei 羅健熙 (@lokinhei) August 12, 2019
However, airlines have been critical of the protests and the disruption caused thus far.
Cathay Pacific put out a statement that described the protests as damaging to Hong Kong’s status as an international aviation hub.
SCMP quoted the statement as saying: “We’d like to make it absolutely clear that we do not condone such behaviour.”
Another carrier, Hong Kong Airlines, took out adverts in newspapers condemning violent acts.
The airline, which is controlled by mainland Chinese conglomerate the HNA Group, also openly challenged the principle of “one country, two systems”, while expressing support for the city’s government and police, urging the city to “calm down all riots and protect Hong Kong”.
Meanwhile, stranded passengers have also expressed frustration with the disruptions.
A Brazillian passenger, known only by her last name, Pires, said that she was forced to pay a lot of money for a hotel room after her Shanghai flight was cancelled.
“I know it is not the airline’s fault, but I just really want to go home,” she said, adding that she had been told that the airline would not provide accommodation for stranded passengers.
SCMP also quoted a Hong Kong retiree, who was sympathetic to the protesters, but feared they may tarnish the city’s reputation by demonstrating in the “gate” to the city.
Arriving at #HongKong airport as protesters gather for a fifth day of demonstrations. Still no end in sight for a heart-wrenching and potentially costly conflict. ?#antiELAB pic.twitter.com/bhCVxlLbKq
— Zuraidah Ibrahim (@zuibrahim) August 13, 2019
Top image by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images