Hong Kong Airport has reopened Wednesday morning following two days of blockade by protesters. Police moved in overnight, removing trespassers from the main terminal building and providing relief for stranded passengers.
What are the details?
Hong Kong is currently experiencing vast civil unrest as one in seven citizens protests for civil rights in their country. As part of their movement, they have decided to target areas of economic and political activity, such as the banking district, ferries and, of course, the airport.
Chek Lap Kok International Airport, the main international airport of Hong Kong, has been one of the focus points of protestors for the last two days. Protestors have seized the chance to deny departing passengers access, from the check-in desks to the immigration and security sections of the airport. They formed a rudimentary blockade with baggage carts and signage but did not act in any violent way towards passengers (there have been two reports of protesters detaining Chinese government officials with some injuries).
This has resulted in multiple canceled flights (over 300 alone on Tuesday) as airlines are unable to board their aircraft.
The original protest was supposed to take place from last Friday to Sunday, but further crackdown actions by the police to other protestors in the city resulted in a resurgence at the airport on Monday and Tuesday.
What is happening now?
The police and airport security have been understood to have cleared the protestors from the main terminal building in the early hours of Wednesday morning, as reported by CNN.
On Tuesday evening, the protesters detained a Chinese man whom they accused of being a Chinese government spy (the man in question came to help his friend board a flight) resulting in him being injured. Paramedics came to treat him but were denied access, resulting in an hour standoff until riot police arrived.
Using the medical emergency as an excuse, riot police, local police, and airport security moved in to remove the protestors and rescue this man. Protestors fought back with laser pointers and baggage carts over the next few hours. Five people have been arrested with a further six sent to the hospital for minor injuries.
Hong Kong airport has also been granted special emergency powers to arrest, detain or subdue people who interfere with the operation of the airport.
“The Airport Authority has obtained an interim injunction to restrain persons from unlawfully and wilfully obstructing or interfering with the proper use of Hong Kong International Airport (the Airport). Persons are also restrained from attending or participating in any demonstration or protest or public order event in the Airport other than in the area designated by the Airport Authority. The interim injunction expressly provides that nothing in the interim injunction shall be construed as authorizing any demonstration, protest or public order event contrary to the Public Order Ordinance.” – Hong Kong Airport Statement
Has the airport reopened?
The airport has now reopened, but still bears some scars from the early morning scuffle. Right now, airport staff are hard at work replacing information screens, removing graffiti and cleaning up the mess left by protestors.
However, passengers now have access to the rest of the international terminal and can resume their journies; a relief for many who have been trapped in the city for the last few days.
The airport, not at all keen to repeat the situation consuming it over the last five days, has implemented new rules for those traveling to the airport. One major rule is only those with boarding passes or a booked flight are allowed into the building.
Access control at the terminal buildings of Hong Kong International Airport is being implemented. Until further notice, only departure passengers with a valid air ticket or boarding pass for a flight in the next 24 hours and a valid travel document will be allowed to enter the terminal buildings. Passengers are reminded to arrive at the airport three hours before their departure time for the relevant checks. Other members of the public, including those who may want to accompany departure passengers or receiving arrival passengers at the airport should not travel to the airport unless absolutely necessary. – Hong Kong Airport Statement
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