(HONG KONG) — Hong Kong International Airport canceled flights for the second straight day on Tuesday as riot police stormed the airport and clashed with thousands of anti-government protesters.
“Terminal operations at Hong Kong International Airport have been seriously disrupted, and all check-in processes have now been suspended,” the airport authority said in a statement.
As hundreds of outgoing and incoming flights were cancelled at one of the world’s busiest airport and a major hub for the region, travelers were advised to leave the terminals as quickly as possible and contact the airlines for more information.
Tuesday marked the fifth consecutive day that demonstrators have occupied the airport.
Protesters held an orderly sit-in at one of the terminals and clashed with police in chaotic scenes elsewhere at the airport.
The demonstrations have become more heated since the movement’s peaceful beginnings 10 weeks ago, when hundreds of thousands of protesters in the semi-autonomous city marched against the government’s proposal to change an extradition law that would allow individuals to be sent to mainland China for trial and prompting fears that China would use the proposed legislation to round up political dissidents.
Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, suspended consideration of the bill indefinitely but stopped short of completely withdrawing it from the legislative agenda.
The U.S. State Department has urged “all sides to exercise restraint,” according to a spokesperson, but it has vocalized support for the protesters, saying the U.S. is “staunch in our support for freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in Hong Kong.”
The spokesperson also urged China “to adhere to its commitments… to allow Hong Kong to exercise a high degree of autonomy” and noted “concerns about the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy.”
U.S. President Donald Trump has been reserved, telling reporters on Tuesday that what was unfolding in Hong Kong was “a very tough situation,” but said he hopes it “it works out for liberty.”
“I hope it works out for everybody, including China, by the way,” the president said. “I hope nobody gets hurt. I hope nobody gets killed.”
Sean Lavin, an American who is in Hong Kong on vacation, said that he and his travel companions are slated to fly out of the airport on Wednesday, but the protests have left that in question.
“I’m supposed to leave tomorrow late afternoon so I’ve been monitoring the airport [to] see if we can,” Lavin told ABC News Live by phone. “Right now we don’t know if we can leave so we’re watching very closely.”
Lavin said his group arrived in Hong Kong from Phuket, Thailand, several days ago, and that they were surprised to find throngs of protesters after making their way through customs.
“It was something I’ve never experienced before,” he said, adding that the protesters were “very polite” and helped his group find their way out of the airport.
On Monday, as demonstrators shut down Hong Kong’s airport, a Chinese official said Hong Kong had reached a “critical moment” and that protesters “have begun to show signs of terrorism.”
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