HONG KONG: Hong Kong airport authorities cancelled all remaining departing and arriving flights at the major travel hub on Monday (Aug 12) after thousands of protesters entered the arrivals hall to stage a demonstration.
“Other than the departure flights that have completed the check-in process and the arrival flights that are already heading to Hong Kong, all other flights have been cancelled for the rest of today,” the airport authority said in a statement.
The abrupt shutdown came after thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators flooded into the airport, holding signs reading “Hong Kong is not safe” and “Shame on police”.
According to Hong Kong police, more than 5,000 protesters were gathered at the airport on Monday.
Airport authorities had allowed demonstrators to gather in the arrivals halls, but police said some protesters went into the departure halls, causing disruption to passengers.
“Airport operations at Hong Kong International Airport have been seriously disrupted as a result of the public assembly at the airport today,” said the airport authority.
It warned that traffic to the airport was “very congested” and the facility’s car parks were completely full.
“Members of the public are advised not to come to the airport.”
In a travel advisory, Hong Kong carriers Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon urged customers not to proceed to the airport. They were also advised to postpone non-essential travel.
The website of Hong Kong International Airport showed that all departure flights from 6pm local time have been cancelled.
They include Singapore Airlines flight SQ865 to Singapore, Cathay Pacific CX890 to New York, AirAsia AK137 to Kuala Lumpur and China Eastern Airlines MU8981 to Shanghai.
Singaporean Nicole Lim was among the passengers affected by the flight cancellations. She was travelling from New York to Singapore with Cathay Pacific and was in transit in Hong Kong.
“There were no announcements made by the airport about the cancellations. I got my information online,” said the 23-year-old.
“It’s not really chaotic in here, but people are trying to find out what’s happening. I’ve been stuck in the queue for the service desks for about an hour,” she told CNA.
“I don’t even know who to be looking for and I want to know what is going to happen to my luggage.”
In its statement, the Hong Kong airport authority said the Airport Emergency Centre has been activated.
“The AA will work closely with its business partners with a view to resuming normal airport operations as soon as possible,” it said.
“Affected passengers are reminded to pay attention to the latest flight information through the airport’s website and the HKG My Flight mobile app.”
Hong Kong was hit by another weekend of violent clashes between police and protesters.
Police fired volleys of tear gas at protesters across the territory on Sunday and staged baton charges in flashpoints in downtown Hong Kong and in working class districts.
At one stage, police stormed some underground train stations, firing tear gas and arresting protesters.
It was the 10th consecutive weekend that protesters have taken to the streets in a movement that began over opposition to a Bill allowing extradition to mainland China.
The protests have morphed into a broader bid to reverse a slide of democratic freedoms in the southern Chinese city.
They have been seen as the biggest threat to Beijing’s rule since Britain handed Hong Kong over in 1997.