Hong Kong’s international airport has yet again been plunged into chaos after anti-government protesters forced authorities to cancel outbound flights for the second day in a row.
Hours after one of the world’s busiest travel hubs returned to full operation, demonstrators have blockaded security gates again today, forcing some would-be passengers to fight their way through in an attempt to catch their flights out of the city.
Hong Kong’s Airport Authority confirmed this morning that all outbound flights that had not checked in by 4.30pm local time (9.30am London time) were cancelled.
A spokesperson said: “Terminal operations at Hong Kong International Airport have been seriously disrupted as a result of the public assembly at the airport today.
“Members of the public are advised not to come to the airport. The Airport Emergency Centre has been activated.”
The cancellations come after a similar move by the airport yesterday. Most protesters left shortly after midnight in Hong Kong, in the early hours of Tuesday morning, before making a return today.
British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic operate flights from Hong Kong to London. A BA spokesperson said they had been unable to check-in customers trying to depart from the airport today, but the airline plans to operate flights into the city from London as normal.
“Like all airlines, our two flights today from Hong Kong to Heathrow are affected by the disruption at Hong Kong International Airport.
“We apologise to customers affected by the disruption at the airport and we are offering them options to rebook to a different date or to take a full refund.”
Hong Kong on ‘brink of no return’
Hours before the latest bout of cancellations, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam said the protests that have rocked the city for over two months have caused “severe wounds” and that the recovery will be a long process.
“Riot activities [have] pushed Hong Kong to the brink of no return,” she said at a press conference.
“I ask everybody to put aside our differences and calm down, take a minute to look at our city, our home. Can we bear to push it into the abyss and see it smashed to pieces?”
The developments have raised the stakes in the city even further after a weekend of often violent skirmishes between protesters and police.
Protests began more than two months ago, in opposition to a bill allowing extraditions to mainland China for trial in Communist-controlled courts. However, they have widened to highlight other grievances, winning broad support.
Demonstrators say they are fighting the erosion of the “one country, two systems” arrangement enshrining some autonomy for Hong Kong when China took it back from Britain in 1997.
Cathay condemns protests
The top shareholder and manager of Cathay Pacific Airways condemned the protests today, vowing to follow China’s aviation regulations after the airline suspended a second pilot on Tuesday as deepening unrest hit its operation and stock.
Cathay, which has strong British links, has emerged as the highest-profile corporate target of Beijing’s crackdown on protesting.
Shares in the Hong Kong flag carrier sunk to a 10-year low this week, hit by concerns that Beijing could slap further sanctions on the airline. Cathay’s stock was valued at 9.55 Hong Kong dollars this morning.
Last week, China’s aviation regulator demanded Cathay suspend personnel who engaged in or supported illegal protests in Hong Kong from staffing flights into its airspace.
Main image: Getty