August 24, 2019
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Hong Kong airport suspends flights for 2nd consecutive day amid protests

Hong Kong, Aug 13 (efe-epa).- Hong Kong authorities announced at 5pm on Tuesday that all remaining flights scheduled to depart from the city's international airport had been suspended after protesters occupied one of the airport's terminals for a second day.

"Terminal operations at Hong Kong International Airport have been seriously disrupted as a result of the public assembly at the airport today," Hong Kong's Airport Authority said in a statement.

"All check-in service for departure flights has been suspended since 1630hrs. Other departure and arrival flights for the rest of the day will continue to operate, and airlines will provide arrangements for passengers who have not completed the departure process," the statement added, advising public to stay away from the airport.

Airport authorities also canceled hundreds of flights on Monday evening for the same reason.

Scenes of long lines and crowds were seen on Tuesday at the airport, one of the world’s busiest, which struggled to recover from the protests a day earlier when demonstrators sought to draw attention to what they consider police brutality while trying to disperse protests in the city.

Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam stood her ground on Tuesday, once again defending the police and criticizing the protesters who, according to her, "will push Hong Kong down a path of no return" and "plunge Hong Kong society into a very worrying and dangerous situation."

Lam defended the actions of police officers, who she said have "a code of practice" and follow "rigid and stringent guidelines."

"Police operations could not be determined by someone like myself, who is outside the police. Especially, when policemen have to make on-the-spot judgment of what will be in the best interest and the safety of people around during that particular situation," she added.

With regard to accusations by protesters that the police fired non-lethal ammunition inside underground subway stations and allegedly hit a girl in the eye, Lam hoped the case would be reported to the police, which she described as "the pillar of the rule of law in Hong Kong."

"We have heard a lot of hate speech against the police… This is not beneficial to Hong Kong at all," she added.

Meanwhile, China's civil aviation authority said Tuesday that it will increase transfer capacity at airports on the Pearl River delta (which includes cities such as Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai) to cope with the disruption of flights between China and Hong Kong.

This development comes after the city witnessed the 10th consecutive weekend of demonstrations sparked by the government's contentious extradition bill that was later shelved by Lam after coming under intense popular pressure.

The controversy surrounding the now-defunct extradition bill, which would have enabled fugitives to be transferred from Hong Kong to mainland China to stand trial under the latter's opaque legal system, has morphed into a broader movement seeking to reverse a decline in freedoms in the ex-British colony.

However, violence between the police and demonstrators has been on the rise with the succession of protest marches.

On Sunday, an unknown number of police officers were injured after protesters threw Molotov cocktails at them, which, according to Beijing, "shows the first signs of terrorism emerging."

In contrast, Amnesty International on Monday asked the police to "exercise restraint" to prevent an escalation in violence in response to the use of tear gas and rubber bullets.

“Hong Kong police have once again used tear gas and rubber bullets in a way that have fallen short of international standards. Firing at retreating protesters in confined areas where they had little time to leave goes against the purported objective of dispersing a crowd," Man-Kei Tam, director of Amnesty International Hong Kong said in a statement.

A former British colony, Hong Kong was passed to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, although it still retains a degree of independence from Beijing.

According to the handover deal between London and Beijing, this political system – which includes certain legal freedoms not recognized in mainland China – must be preserved until 2047.

But many protesters viewed the extradition bill – which was declared "dead" by the Hong Kong government in early July – as an attempt by China to meddle in Hong Kong's affairs. EFE-EPA

jco/pd/tw

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