One of the world’s busiest airports yesterday canceled all flights after thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators crowded into the main terminal of Hong Kong International Airport, while the central government in Beijing issued an ominous characterization of the protest movement as something approaching “terrorism.”
The extreme action by the largely leaderless movement seemed calculated to prompt a stern response from Beijing, and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) administration responded within hours.
The Chinese State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office issued a statement saying the situation in Hong Kong was “beginning to show the sprouts of terrorism” and constituted an “existential threat” to the population.
“One must take resolute action toward this violent criminality, showing no leniency or mercy,” said the statement, attributed to spokesman Yang Guang (楊光). “Hong Kong has reached an inflection point where all those who are concerned about Hong Kong’s future must say ‘no’ to law breakers and ‘no’ to those engaged in violence.”
No new violence was reported by yesterday evening, although the territory remained on edge after more than two months of near-daily and increasingly bloody confrontations between protesters and police.
Beijing tends toward a broad definition of terrorism, including in it nonviolent protests of government policies on the environment or in minority regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet.
Such a designation adds to the regime’s descriptions of protesters as clowns, criminals and traitors intent on overthrowing Chinese rule in Hong Kong.
A crowd of protesters that authorities said numbered more than 5,000 descended on the airport yesterday carrying placards and chanting slogans about police violence.
Hong Kong International Airport said in a statement the demonstration “seriously disrupted” airport operations.
Only flights that had already started boarding or those cleared for landing were allowed to use runways at the airport.
“All other flights have been canceled for the rest of today,” the airport statement said.
It later said flights would resume at 6am this morning.
Joydeep Chakravarti, a software engineer whose connecting flight to San Francisco was canceled during a layover in Hong Kong, expressed frustration that he was told to leave the airport when he wanted to stay inside the terminal.
“I don’t know what’s out there, so I don’t want to leave. I didn’t make any plans for Hong Kong,” said Chakravarti, who had a carry-on bag with laptop, charger and an extra shirt while the rest of his luggage already was checked in on his Singapore Airlines flight.
A massive traffic jam soon formed on the highway leading back to Hong Kong’s city center, but hundreds of protesters remained in the arrivals hall well into the night with no sign of leaving.
Some protesters were seen walking toward the airport amid the stifling heat.
At the airport, a flight attendant protesting on his day off, who gave only his surname, Lau, to avoid repercussions from his employer, said heavy-handed police tactics had alienated some people.
“The police have told a lot of lies to Hong Kong people. We cannot believe them anymore. We have to come here to protest,” Lau said.
Another protester, who identified herself only as Bea, said she took the day off from work to express her outrage because “I feel that I have to do something ... It’s just too sad to see what has happened. The police action has gone totally nonsensical.”
Later yesterday, two Chinese state media outlets ran videos showing armored personnel and troop carriers purportedly driving to Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong.
The Global Times said the Chinese People’s Armed Police were assembling “in advance of apparent large-scale exercises.”
In an interview in Berlin, Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) said China’s leadership can now only resort to force, since it has failed in its quest to win hearts and minds in Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong people will not be the loser, because they’re on the right side of history,” he said.
Additional reporting by AFP
HONG KONG SECURITY: The president blasted regulations requiring Taiwanese agents or political organizations to provide information on their Hong Kong-related activities President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday warned of countermeasures should controversial Chinese national security legislation imposed on Hong Kong undermine or harm Taiwanese interests. Article 43 of the legislation empowers the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to serve written notices to Taiwanese political organizations or individual agents to furnish information on their Hong Kong-related activities, including their personal particulars, finances, assets, expenditure and capital in the territory. Failure to comply or providing false or incomplete information can result in a fine of HK$100,000 (US$12,903) or imprisonment of six months or two years respectively. Tsai said that Taiwan would keep a close watch on how
PROBE LAUNCHED: An officer who served as a supervisor in the drill died in an apparent suicide after the accident, which was caused by unexpected waves Two marines who were on Friday injured in a military exercise in the waters off Kaohsiung passed away yesterday, Navy Command said. The marines — surnamed Tsai (蔡), 26, and a sergeant surnamed Chen (陳), 36 — were in a seven-member Marine Corps team that encountered rough seas during a simulated response to enemy forces landing on Taiwan. Their rubber craft overturned in waters off Taoziyuan (桃子園) beach in Zuoying District (左營), injuring four of the marines. They were rushed to hospital, where three of them — Tsai, Chen and a 34-year-old sergeant — were taken to an intensive care unit
MORAL COURAGE: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged the global community to face China’s intention to subdue Taiwan and reject such irrational requests The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday strongly condemned the Chinese government for meddling with US officials’ interactions with Taiwan after FBI Director Christopher Wray revealed China’s efforts to discourage US officials from visiting Taiwan. The greatest long-term threat to the US’ information security and intellectual property, as well as its economic vitality, is China’s counterintelligence and economic espionage operations, Wray told a video event at the Hudson Institute in Washington. Beijing is engaged in a highly sophisticated and maligning foreign influence campaign, with methods that include bribery, blackmail and covert deals, he said. Giving an example, Wray said that when a US official
CAUTION: Taiwan had zero cases of death from food poisoning for six years until last year, when two people died after eating wildlife, an FDA official said The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday urged the public not to eat wildlife or unidentified wild plants, as they could be fatal, with nearly 7,000 people affected by food poisoning last year, including two deaths due to wildlife consumption. The number of food poisoning incidents increased by nearly 50 percent last year, from 398 cases involving 4,616 people in the previous year to 503 cases involving 6,944 people, FDA data showed. That figure was the second-highest in history, the FDA said, adding that the highest number was recorded in 1997, with 7,235 people. Among the 503 cases, 87 were food poisoning clusters