More than a dozen flights were canceled yesterday as thousands of pro-democracy advocates blocked routes to Hong Kong’s airport, a day after protesters and police fought pitched battles in some of the worst violence seen in the territory since unrest began three months ago.
At least 16 flights were canceled, Hong Kong International Airport’s Web site said, with the departure hall packed with a backlog of passengers who had struggled to make it to the terminals.
Earlier, operators of the Airport Express train suspended services after the station was besieged, while black-clad protesters — hiding from surveillance cameras under umbrellas — built barricades at the bus terminus and attempted to stop traffic on the main road leading to the facility.
Stranded travelers were forced to abandon their vehicles and drag their luggage along the airport road.
Yesterday’s action was the latest in three months of increasingly violent protests sparked initially by opposition to a proposed law that would have allowed extraditions to China, but which morphed into a broader anti-government movement.
Outside one airport terminal, protesters set off fire extinguishers, piled luggage trolleys into makeshift road barricades and smashed surveillance cameras before being driven away by police.
“It’s out of our control,” said Andy Tang, 26, returning to Australia from a week’s holiday in Hong Kong. “So there’s no point getting annoyed about it.”
The airport is covered by an injunction banning protesters from entering — imposed after a shutdown last month that ended in ugly clashes — but protesters have routinely ignored legal moves to ban their actions.
Yesterday, sanitation workers were seen clearing debris and removing graffiti after a night of pitched battles between protesters and police.
Hours earlier, a huge fire burned in the territory’s commercial district as chaos ripped through the center of a city usually renowned for its stability and prosperity.
Same demonstrators on Saturday hurled Molotov cocktails at government buildings and police, who responded with tear gas and water cannons laced with dye before making mass arrests inside subway stations.
Video captured by local media showed police charge a crowd cowering inside a train carriage — with one man, drenched in pepper spray, crying in anguish as he tried to protect his female friend.
Officers made 40 arrests at one station. Anger at police tactics swirled across social media.
“The police are a licensed mob,” Kwok Ka-ki (郭家麒), a pro-democracy lawmaker, told reporters.
Decrying the “horrifying” police raid on the train carriage, Amnesty International called for a probe into police conduct.
“Violence directed at police ... is no excuse for officers to go on the rampage elsewhere,” Amnesty International Hong Kong director Man-kei Tam (譚萬基) said.
Police said officers also fired two warning shots into the air after being attacked by a group of “violent protesters who attempted to once snatch police pistols.”
“Escalating violence and [the] progressively lethal weapons of protesters, the safety of police officers and ... the public is seriously threatened,” police said in a statement.
About 31 people were admitted to hospital with injuries following the clashes, including five who remain in a serious condition.
The territory is bracing for more disruption today, with calls for a general strike and the start of a university boycott.
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