Hong Kong International Airport reopened early this morning after a mass sit-in by thousands of protesters forced the airport authority to order an unprecedented shutdown. Around 200 flights were cancelled after officials decided the airport could no longer properly function as a result of the protest late Monday afternoon.
Further protests are expected on Tuesday afternoon and there remains the possibility that HKIA could be closed down once again.
Cathay Pacific warned passengers to allow 3-4 hours to check-in and only travel to the airport if their booking is confirmed. Flight disruption is likely to continue into Tuesday because crew and aircraft are out of position following Monday’s disruption.
Shares in Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific fell to a 10-year low on Tuesday morning as the airline gets dragged into the dispute between protestors and the Chinese government. China has ordered Cathay Pacific to take a tough stance on staff who support the movement after it was revealed one of its pilots had been arrested for demonstrating and another staff member leaked travel information of a group of Hong Kong police officers.
Cathay Pacific says it will fully comply with tough new requirements imposed by Beijing, including providing details of pilots and cabin crew who operate on flights to and from mainland China, as well as on flights that fly through Chinese air space.
Beijing mouthpiece, The Global Times has ratcheted up its rhetoric on the protest movement, labelling demonstrators “rioters” and claiming there were “signs of terrorism” within the movement. According to the Hong Kong police force, nearly 150 people were arrested in connection with anti-ELAB protests between Friday and Sunday.
So far, police have not attempted to disperse protestors from the airport but Beijing is urging Hong Kong authorities to take a tougher stance should protests continue on Tuesday. Beijing has backed the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and undercover police snatch squads. Protestors were incensed by a violent incident where a female protestor was hit at close range in the eye by a rubber bullet.
There are also signs of the Chinese army and police units massing in Shenzhen, which is just 27km from Hong Kong. Chinese authorities say the units are simply taking part in a training exercise but there are fears that a violent clampdown may be ordered if the protests continue for much longer.
The U.S. State Department issued a Level 2 travel advisory on 7th August for Hong Kong, warning travellers to exercise increased caution because of the risk of violent clashes associated with the protests. The Australian government is urging its citizens to “exercise a high degree of caution” in the city, while the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office is advising Brits to “remain vigilant”.