Flights resume after second night of chaos at Hong Kong airport
Hong Kong airport is one of the busiest in the world. More than 74 million passengers traveled to and from the hub last year, and it serves about 200 destinations around the world. It also handles 1,100 passenger and cargo flights each day.
The airport contributes 5% to Hong Kong's GDP, directly and indirectly, said Frank Chan, Hong Kong's transport secretary.
Experts worry that travelers will now avoid Hong Kong. "This is a disaster for Hong Kong that will cost tens of millions of dollars," said Geoffrey Thomas, editor in chief and managing director of AirlineRatings.com, a website that monitors airlines.
It's still too early to assess the economic impact of the shutdowns -- but fewer tourists could hit a range of businesses hard, from those in retail to restaurants and hotels.
At least 6 people were hospitalized after violent clashes at Hong Kong’s International Airport last night, according to the city’s Hospital Authority.
Three of those people have been discharged, while the others are in a stable condition.
Last night, two people were held by protesters and accused of being undercover police officers. One appeared to be unconscious and was eventually evacuated by paramedics. There were also scuffles later on, when police tried to leave after evacuating the man.
As the protests continue, countries and international groups are chiming in. Some have expressed support for the protesters, others have condemned the violence -- nearly all have called for calm.
Here's what the world is saying:
- China: Beijing has condemned the protests, calling demonstrators "criminals" and "separatists" who are showing "signs of terrorism."
- The United States: President Donald Trump called the unrest a “tough situation," and said he hopes it will work out “for everybody, including China.” A senior US official added that the administration encourages "all sides to remain calm, safe, and peaceful."
- The United Kingdom: UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said Monday he is concerned by what’s happening in the former British colony, and "the worrying pictures of clashes between police and protesters at the airport." Another British politician called for Hong Kong citizens to be given full British nationality.
- Canada: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was "extremely concerned" about the violence and warned China to be "very careful and very respectful" in dealing with the protests.
- Australia: Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged Hong Kong's leaders to "listen carefully" to the protesters and "work towards a peaceful and calm resolution."
- The European Union: A spokesperson said it was "crucial that all sides exercise restraint, reject all kinds of violence, and take urgent steps to de-escalate the situation."
- The United Nations: The UN High Commissioner condemned "any form of violence or destruction of property." He urged the protesters to be peaceful and the city's leaders to "listen to the grievances of the people" and investigate police brutality.
It's been a chaotic 48 hours in Hong Kong. Last night thousands of protesters showed up at the airport, grounding departing flights for the second consecutive evening and bringing chaos to the normally orderly hub.
It's now morning local time and life is slowly returning to normal -- but tensions are still running high and there's little indication whether tonight will descend into chaos again.
If you're just tuning in, here's what you need to know.
- What happened: On Monday night, thousands sat in at the airport, leading to nearly 200 flights being canceled. There was no violence that night. But protesters returned last night, canceling flights again -- and this time, things got ugly.
- Protesters divided: Protesters held a man for several hours, accusing him of being an undercover cop. They tied his wrists up and wouldn't allow paramedics through, even when the man appeared to lose consciousness. Some protesters tried to get the man help, only to be pushed back by others -- showing just how fractured the leaderless movement has become. He was eventually evacuated by paramedics.
- Arrests made: Police have arrested 5 people. Two police officers have been injured, according to a statement by the police today.
- What now? The airport was cleared out and cleaned, and flights are returning to normal. But it feels like the city is holding its breath, unsure whether there will be another occupation, clashes with riot police and more canceled flights this evening.
Here's the bigger picture: This is the 11th consecutive week of protests. They began as relatively peaceful marches in opposition to a now-shelved bill that would have allowed extradition to China.
But as recent protests have shown, it's not just about the bill anymore -- protester demands now include calls for greater democracy, the resignation of Hong Kong's leader, and an independent investigation into alleged police brutality.
Protesters are getting angrier and more volatile as fear and suspicion spread, and police ramp up arrests and crackdowns. Violence has been escalating for weeks -- and nobody is sure where it's all going.
The Hong Kong International Airport returned to normal operations Wednesday following clashes between protesters and police, according to a CNN team there.
Most flights appeared to be running on schedule based on one of the departure boards at the airport and hundreds of travelers were in the departures hall.
According to the CNN team, the airport was cleaned up and graffiti was covered up with white sheets of paper.
Five people were arrested and two police officers were injured during Tuesday's protest at Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong police said.
In a statement released early Wednesday, police said they condemned the protesters' actions, calling them "radical and violent acts."
Police denounced the protesters who they said “detained, harassed and assaulted a visitor and a journalist, inflicting physical and mental harm on them.”
Some background: Police said in a statement the visitor was "assaulted and "besieged" by protesters at the airport. They said protesters blocked ambulances from rendering aid.
Another man was detained and zip-tied to a luggage cart by protesters. He was identified as mainland Chinese reporter Fu Guohao for state-run tabloid newspaper Global Times, according to the outlet's editor-in-chief.
He was later seen being wheeled out of the airport by first-aid workers.
The US is monitoring unrest in Hong Kong and encourages "all sides to remain calm, safe, and peaceful," a senior US administration official said.
"As the President has said, 'They’re looking for democracy and I think most people want democracy,'" the official said. "Freedoms of expression and assembly are core values that we share with the people of Hong Kong and these freedoms should be protected."
"The United States firmly rejects the notion that we are sponsoring or inciting the demonstrations," the official said, echoing Trump's earlier tweet.
The US believes if China were to intervene militarily in the Hong Kong protests it be would likely be because the Chinese had assessed that the Hong Kong authorities have lost control, a senior administration official said.
The official said losing control could be defined as the interference of commercial activity in Hong Kong.
In the US, surveys taken after the violent suppression of protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 showed public approval for China dropped dramatically, particularly among people under 30 and that has never recovered, the official explained, indicating that Chinese military intervention in Hong Kong is not a good idea.
If China does intervene militarily in Hong Kong, Congress will explode and there will be a lot of negative consequences, the official said.
During the unrest in Hong Kong, the US Navy's requests for two ships to make port visits in the coming weeks have been denied by the Chinese government.
“The Chinese Government denied requests for port visits to Hong Kong by the USS Green Bay and USS Lake Erie, which were scheduled to arrive in the next few weeks,” according to Commander Nate Christensen, deputy spokesperson, US Pacific Fleet.
The USS Green Bay was scheduled to visit Hong Kong on Aug. 17 and USS Lake Erie was scheduled to visit next month.
“The US Navy has a long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong, and we expect them to continue. We refer you to the Chinese Government for further information about why they denied the request,” Christensen said.