Flights at Hong Kong International (HKIA), one of the busiest airports in the world, were disrupted for a second day after a pro-democracy sit-in escalated to violent confrontations with Hong Kong police.
This came after thousands of peaceful pro-democracy protesters descended on the airport on Monday in response to police brutality, to the ire of some passengers inconvenienced by the sit-in. An Australian man was caught on camera telling protesters that they should be brought to “law and order” by police.
Australian carriers were effected on Tuesday, with Virgin Australia forced to delay flights VA82 and VA68, which were due to depart Hong Kong, to Wednesday morning.
Qantas operated all four of its flights to depart Hong Kong on Tuesday evening and will operate four flights leaving Australia to Hong Kong on Wednesday.
Hong Kong’s national carrier Cathay Pacific said it will operate flights on Wednesday as scheduled, however, it advised there is potential for further flight disruptions at short notice.
China has demanded that Cathay Pacific suspend any staff that have joined or taken part in protests from flights in Chinese airspace. The airline has complied with these demands.
According to South China Morning Post, the airport sit-ins came as a response to a woman being shot in the eye with a bean bag round from a shotgun by a police officer on Sunday. The Post said doctors feared the woman could lose her eye.
In response to the incident, protesters branded the slogans “an eye for an eye” and “not any one of the five demands could be missing”, wearing bloodied eye patches as a symbol.
Theme of “eye for an eye” here still going strong on day 5 of the airport protests. Reference is to a woman who was hit in the eye w a bean bag bullet on Sun pic.twitter.com/rrIPV6ELYD
— Rosalind Adams (@RosalindZAdams) August 13, 2019
The Post reported that protesters hoped this would put pressure on the government to respond to their demands, which include the establishment of a commission of inquiry to look into the extradition bill-related protests, along with police’s handling of demonstrations.
“I think paralysing the airport will be effective in forcing Carrie Lam to respond to us … it can further pressure Hong Kong’s economy,” Dorothy Cheng, a 17-year-old protester, told Reuters.
Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, has warned that Hong Kong risked being “smashed to pieces”. At a press conference, she appealed for calm and restraint.
“Take a minute to look at our city, our home,” she said at a news conference in the newly-fortified government headquarters complex, as reported by Reuters.
“Can we bear to push it into the abyss and see it smashed to pieces?” she said.
Pro-democracy protesters at the airport reportedly dispersed after a court-ordered injunction was issued to clear them out. This came after police again clashed with protesters who had formed barricades at the airport. An officer pulled a gun out at one point, according to Reuters.
The United Nations human rights commissioner Michele Bachelet has urged Hong Kong authorities to exercise restraint and investigate evidence of their forces firing tear gas at protesters in ways banned under international law.
China reportedly responded by saying Bachelet’s comments sent the wrong signal to “violent criminal offenders”.
This comes amid reports citing US President Donald Trump’s claims that China is mobilising troops to the border with Hong Kong.