- The sudden airport shutdown came as mass demonstrations spilled into a third month, despite rising threats from the authorities.
On Monday, Beijing officials gave their third press conference in as many weeks, a rarity for authorities in normal times.
“Radical protesters have been frequently using extremely dangerous tools to attack the police in recent days, constituting serious criminal acts with sprouts of terrorism emerging,” said Yang Guang, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing, which reports to China’s cabinet.
Violence escalated significantly between protesters and police over the weekend, as officers shot tear gas into underground subway stations for the first time after mass demonstrations began early June. Police have made more than 600 arrests in recent days.
Protesters had already occupied the airport for days when more flooded in Monday. Some wore black eye patches, waving signs that read “Hong Kong is not safe,” “Shame on the police,” and “An eye for an eye,” turning out to express their anger after one person thought to have been shot by a beanbag round in her right eye was hospitalized.
Stations on the city’s airport express line were filled with confused passengers unable to get to the airport, many of whom were on the phone with family, friends and colleagues to sort backup travel plans, while other visitors disembarked from the train after being turned away at the airport.
Hong Kong airport is the world's 8th busiest, with frequent departures to more than 180 cities, and a hub for travel to much of Asia.