Passengers run the gauntlet

Top News | Stella Wong 14 Aug 2019

Air travelers faced a second day of disruptions and delays at Hong Kong International Airport yesterday, with close to 400 flights canceled amid angry scenes .

All check-in services for departure flights were suspended late in the afternoon on the fifth day of protests at the airport.

One of the most heated moments came last night when a mainland man was grabbed by dozens of protesters after he was accused of being a Shenzhen Public Security Bureau officer.

Protesters said they found a truncheon in his backpack and an identity card suggesting he was a policeman.

Airport security officers tried to reason with the protesters, but they refused to release the man after holding him for more than two hours.

That flurry of action came late last night after a day that started with dozens of demonstrators protesting against police action and who had stayed overnight at the airport were joined by thousands more in the afternoon.

But there were less than on Monday, when more than 10,000 protesters filled the arrival and departure halls and paralyzed the airport. The original plan was for a sit-in from Friday to Sunday, but violent clashes on Sunday in various districts led to calls to occupy the airport on Monday.

Yesterday's action saw some protesters heading to the departure hall at Terminal 1 after 2.30pm. They chanted outside the north and south gates and tried to block passengers from entering the restricted area.

Two hours later protesters headed to Terminal 2 and blocked passengers from reaching the departure hall via escalators. That saw some would-be passengers arguing with protesters.

The Airport Authority announced all check-in services for departing flights were suspended at 4.30pm, with a spokesman saying operations "have been seriously disrupted."

Flights would continue to take off and land, he added, but operators would need to make arrangements for people who had not completed departure processes. Then, at 5.10pm, protesters backed off and allowed people to reach the departure level while also apologizing.

Tension flared again 20 minutes later, however, when some protesters used trolleys to blockade the south gate at Terminal 1, preventing travelers from entering the restricted area. They chanted "Fight for freedom" and "Stand with Hong Kong."

This action riled travelers. Some pushed and argued with protesters while others climbed over the blockade and protesters seated behind the trolleys in attempts to reach the restricted area.

A mainland man shouted at protesters: "You are fighting for freedom, so you should not affect others' freedom." That set off quarrels and security personnel escorted the traveler away.

Airport staff then asked protesters to allow travelers to enter the hall, but that was met with resistance and one activist yelling: "Do not let travelers in."

Hundreds of travelers were also stuck in Terminal 2, with some angered about not being delayed. One foreigner pushed at protesters, shouting it was essential he caught a flight.

A woman member of a Canadian family set to go home said their flight had not been canceled and they had already checked in their luggage. But the family remained blocked.

At the Terminal 1 arrival hall, a 27-year-old advertising worker, Mag Mak, whose flight to Hong Kong from Dubai was delayed for five hours, told AFP: "I know what they are doing and I support them, so it doesn't matter. I think the government is rubbish and they don't have any response to the protesters."

Frank Filser, 53, struggling to reschedule a flight to Germany to visit his father who has terminal cancer, said he sympathized with the protesters despite the disruption.

"They fight for Hong Kong and that's their view," he said. "I can go back to Germany, but what about the people who grew up here? This is their home."

Hong Kong-based real estate worker Tibor was aiming for a rescheduled flight after his journey was halted on Monday.

He said he understood the protests because "it's really frustrating to live in a society where your government is not really having a dialogue with its own people."

Others were simply angry at having travel plans ruined by protesters. "They caused us a five-hour delay," said Wing Au-yeung, 50, who had stopped off in the SAR to collect his mother before traveling to South Korea with his family. "They can do what they want so long as it does not affect other people."

At least 188 arrivals and 182 departures flight had been canceled by 3pm. Cathay Pacific, which canceled 40 departures and 25 arrivals on Monday and 98 departures and 108 arrivals by 4pm yesterday, said it opposed "any behavior that affects normal operations and the safety of passengers."

It also noted that Hong Kong's status as an international aviation hub was affected.

Hong Kong Airlines canceled 18 flights yesterday after halting 22 on Monday while HK Express canceled 52 flights from Monday to yesterday.

The Travel Industry Council reported that at least 12 tours scheduled to depart yesterday were canceled by 5pm.

More reports:

Swire comes out strongly in support of Lam and police

More developers speak out

HK on brink of 'abyss' as Lam sues for calm

Police to probe woman's eye injury

Medics stage silent protest

Ottawa concerned about Canadians in city

Legco won't be a fortress despite reinforcements

Editorial:

Walking a fine line as business shrinks

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