Protesters re-group at HK airport, departure gates closed at main terminal

Protesters gather at Hong Kong International Airport in a sit-in protest. (AFP pic)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong airport enters a fifth straight day of protests, as demonstrators continued to gather in the main terminal building Tuesday, with the airport now forced to close its departure gates in its main terminal late afternoon.

Crowds of demonstrators re-congregated at the airport Tuesday after measures reducing train services to the terminals made it harder for them to match Monday’s numbers. Due to reduced flights at the airport, fewer trains between downtown and the terminals were necessary, airport authority said.

Hundreds of black-shirted protesters shifted from the airport’s arrivals hall to the departures area, bringing passenger check-ins to a crawl. They sat on the floor and blocked the route to the terminal’s north departure gates as they chanted “Shame on Hong Kong police.” “They shoot press, they shoot first aid, they are HK police,” one protester’s sign read.

A trickle of passengers were still getting through, but others remained in a long line, some sitting warily with their luggage carts. The crew channel was closed off.

The airport authority then closed its north and south departure gates at international Terminal 1, leaving long lines of passengers who had already checked in to wait for further instruction. Gates at Terminal 2, which houses a number of budget carriers, were still operating.

Meanwhile, the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), the group that organized three historically large marches against the extradition bill in June and July, detailed plans to hold a similar public procession at 3 pm, Sunday Aug 18. The group’s challenge will be maintaining the largely peaceful atmosphere of the earlier events as some protests turn to violence and the police employ more forceful measures to disperse them. It is unclear whether the CHRF will get sign-off from the police, who have been withholding approval from some marches.

Hong Kong police said at a daily briefing that officers fired 58 rounds of tear gas and seven rounds of rubber bullets as violence escalated Saturday, moves that further propelled protester anger. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam asserted that she didn’t have authority over the police force.

Opposition lawmaker Claudia Mo, a prominent participant in the CHRF protests, separately called Lam’s contention “irresponsible.” “It’s very clear right now who is running Hong Kong, and that’s Beijing,” Mo said.