On this ninth day of August, 2019, protestors in Hong Kong have staged a sit-in at the city’s Chek Lap Kok airport. The events come as dissenters against a proposed extradition law enter into their fourth month of demonstrations. Here, we examine the situation at Chek Lap Kok further, exploring why airports are strategic places for public protest.
Hong Kong airport protests
At 13h00, hundreds of protestors joined a sit-in at the airport hoping to increase international attention to their cause. The assembly, which has not been authorized by public authorities, is expected to attract thousands and last until Sunday.
According to numerous news sources, the airport sit-in remained peaceful throughout the day. Protestors were seen singing chants and handing out leaflets to passing travelers.
According to Al Jazeera, the event was promoted on social media with the use of mock boarding passes reading “HK to freedom”.
For their part, airport authorities have increased security at the site, leading to passenger delays. Additionally, a handful of flights were canceled throughout the day. However, it is not clear if these cancellations were a result of the protests.
Airports are highly visible protest grounds
Protests largely serve three functions; express a viewpoint, gain support for a given viewpoint, and, generally, seek to set out a change in line with a given viewpoint.
In doing so, nonviolent demonstrations will often use of different forms of civil disobedience such as occupations, sit-ins, and other activities aimed at disrupting the status quo.
Airports, like many other public places such as squares, parks, and streets, give protestors the ability to disrupt regular activities in a highly visible manner.
Indeed, one Hong Kong protestor told the South China Morning Post that “the international awareness is enough for us to be effective”, reaffirming the importance of international exposure for the movement.
Hong Kong airport is not unique
Over the years, numerous protests have occurred at airports around the world.
In some instances, airports and aviation have been the main target of demonstrators. Plane Stupid, for one, staged at least six protests around UK airports, aiming to limit the aviation industry’s expansion on environmental grounds.
Other anti-aviation airport protests have occurred throughout France, notably at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, in Mirabel, Quebec, Canada, and other nations thought the world.
In other cases, however, airports have served as a symbolic protest site. Take, for example, the demonstrations against US Presidential Executive Order 13796, commonly known as the “Muslim / Travel ban”.
On this occasion, protests started at New York’s JFK airport, quickly spreading across the United States. The demonstrations, like the ones in Hong Kong, aimed at changing a specific government policy.
Thus, airports are like any other public space. Not only are they highly visible sites for demonstrations, but their dependence on an orderly functioning make them susceptible to disruption. Like other strategic locations such as roads, bridges, and seaports, airports are a naturally favored marching ground for any demonstration.
Have you been affected by the Hong Kong protests? Do you plan on traveling to, from or through Hong Kong International? Let us know in the comments.