Hong Kong airport cancels flights over protests

Hong Kong International Airport cancelled all departures on Monday, as thousands of anti-government protesters occupied and caused disruption.

Passengers have been told not to travel to the airport, which is one of the world’s busiest transport hubs.

In a statement, officials blamed “seriously disrupted” operations.

Many of those protesting are critical of the actions of police, who on Sunday were filmed firing tear gas and rubber bullets at close range.

Some protesters wore bandages over their eyes in response to images of a woman bleeding heavily from her eye on Sunday, having reportedly been shot by a police projectile.

In a statement yesterday afternoon, Hong Kong’s Airport Authority said they were cancelling all flights that were not yet checked in.

More than 160 flights scheduled to leave after 18:00 local time (10:00 GMT) will now not depart.

Arrivals already heading into Hong Kong will still be allowed to land, but other scheduled flights have been cancelled.

Officials are now working to reopen the airport by 06:00 today, a statement said.

Some passengers expressed annoyance at the disruption. “It’s very frustrating and scary for some people,” one man from Pakistan told the BBC. “We’ll just have to wait for our next flight.”

Helen Morgan, from the UK, said she was set to return to the UK to get her exam results on Thursday. “I’m hoping we get back for them and we’re not on a flight,” she said.

But others were more understanding of the protests. “I was expecting something, given all the news,” one arrival, Gurinda Singh, told Reuters news agency.

As rumours spread that police plan to move in on protesters yesterday evening, thousands opted to leave on foot. There are large backlogs for transport back into the centre, local reports say.

The BBC’s Stephen McDonell, who is at the scene, says the airport has effectively shut down while authorities work out how to deal with the crisis.

Hong Kong’s mass demonstrations and unrest show no sign of abating, more than two months after they were sparked by a controversial extradition bill.

Beijing officials have strongly condemned Sunday’s violence and linked violent protesters to “terrorism”.

On Sunday afternoon, a peaceful rally in the city’s Victoria Park led to clashes when protesters moved out of the area and marched along a major road despite a police ban. –BBC

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