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Clashes erupt at Hong Kong airport as flights disrupted

Clashes erupt at Hong Kong airport as flights disrupted

Riot police use pepper spray to disperse protesters at the Hong Kong international airport [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

Police have clashed with pro-democracy protesters at Hong Kong‘s international airport after flights were disrupted for a second day amid a deepening political crisis in the financial hub.

The scuffles broke out on Tuesday evening after an injured person was escorted out of the main terminal by medics in order to be taken away in an ambulance.

Several police vehicles were blocked by protesters, and riot police moved in, pushing some demonstrators back and using pepper spray at times. At least two people were reportedly detained.

Protesters also barricaded some passageways in the airport with luggage trolleys and other objects.

Hong Kong’s Airport Authority said operations at the airport had been “seriously disrupted” and that departing passengers had been unable to reach immigration counters.

Hong Kong’s stockmarket fell to a seven-month low.

Ten weeks of increasingly violent clashes between police and protesters have roiled Hong Kong as thousands of residents have repeatedly taken to the streets to protest against what they see as an erosion of freedoms and autonomy under Chinese rule.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Hong Kong to exercise restraint and investigate evidence of its forces firing tear gas at protesters in ways banned under international law.

“Take a minute to look at our city, our home,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said, at a news conference in the government headquarters complex, which is fortified behind a nearly two-metre-high water-filled barricades.

“Can we bear to push it into the abyss and see it smashed to pieces?”

China this week condemned some protesters for using dangerous tools to attack police, calling the clashes as the first signs of “terrorism”.

The rallies present Chinese President Xi Jinping with one of his biggest challenges since he came to power in 2012.Hong Kong legal experts say Beijing might be paving the way to use anti-terrorism laws to try to quell the demonstrations.

Unprecedented shutdown

The clashes at the airport followed an unprecedented airport shutdown on Monday.

Again on Tuesday, thousands of black-clad protesters jammed the terminal, chanting, singing and waving banners.

Floors and walls were covered with missives penned by activists and other artwork. Initially, the scene was peaceful as knots of protesters spoke to travelers, explaining their aims.

“Sorry for the inconvenience, we are fighting for the future of our home,” read one protest banner at the airport.

“I think paralyzing the airport will be effective in forcing Carrie Lam to respond to us … it can further pressure Hong Kong’s economy,” Dorothy Cheng, 17, told Reuters news agency.

‘Panic and chaos’

The weeks of protests began as opposition to a now-suspended bill that would have allowed suspects to be extradited to mainland China, but have swelled into wider calls for democracy.

Demonstrators say they are fighting the erosion of the “one country, two systems” arrangement that enshrined some autonomy for Hong Kong since China took it back from Britain in 1997.

They want Lam to resign. She says she will stay.

“My responsibility goes beyond this particular range of protest,” Lam said on Tuesday, adding that violence had pushed the territory into a state of “panic and chaos”.

Volatile situation

Speaking from Hong Kong, Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride said the situation in Hong Kong was volatile and continuously changing.

“There are literally hundreds of passengers wondering how they are going to get out of Hong Kong because their flights have been cancelled and they don’t know when they are going to get out.

“The police tactics being used have come under intense scrutiny,” said McBridge, adding that the UN has been “very critical of some of the techniques police have used, for example the firing of tear gas in closed spaces.”

Source: Aljazeera

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