Hong Kong braced for a series of protests and a sit-in demonstration at the airport as the city entered its 10th straight weekend of anti-China demonstrations.
The Hong Kong Airport Authority bolstered security at the airport on Friday as protesters gathered at the arrivals hall. Only departing passengers with tickets or boarding passes and valid travel documents will be allowed to enter the check-in area at Terminal 1 until Sunday night, the authority said in a statement Friday, and security personnel have been deployed.
The sit-in will serve as a backdrop for a flurry of weekend protest requests across the city — most of which have been denied permission by authorities. It also follows China’s civil aviation authority ordering Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., Hong Kong’s main airline, to ban all employees who supported or joined the recent protests from flying to the mainland, one of the strongest signs yet that Beijing is losing its patience with the demonstrations.
The weekend protests come days after a general strike that disrupted the financial hub’s morning rush hour, leaving traffic jammed, subway lines suspended and dozens of flights canceled. Those demonstrations, which ended in tear gas and dispersal operations, prompted local leader Carrie Lam to warn of a “very dangerous situation” as her China-backed government struggles to quell an unpredictable and increasingly widespread movement.
Hong Kong police have denied requests for planned rallies in the districts of Tai Po and Wong Tai Sin on Saturday, and in Sham Shui Po and the Eastern District on Sunday. Only protests in the city’s Victoria Park were granted, according to the Hong Kong Economic Times. The police denied rumors that they planned to arrest demonstrators en masse without warning this weekend, the South China Morning Post reported.
Protests sparked in June by a bill easing extraditions to the mainland have widened to include demands for Lam’s resignation. They are having an increasing impact on the economy and daily life in one of the world’s most densely crowded cities, raising concerns that Beijing will send in its army to restore order.
A crowd of protesters began gathering at the airport Friday afternoon, after initially calling for a sit-in to get their message across to international visitors. Staff set up barriers outside of check-in aisles and passengers presented their boarding passes.
Thousands of black-shirted people swarmed the airport terminal in a similar scene late last month, sitting on the ground for hours, holding signs and chanting “Free Hong Kong! Free Hong Kong!” and other slogans as crowds watched. There were no major flight disruptions.
Cathay came under fire from Chinese state media after some of its employees took part in a general strike on Monday. Later in the week, it said the unrest affected ticket sales in July and is hurting future bookings.
The airline said Friday that while it supports the “one country, two systems” principle under which the former British colony is governed, it doesn’t condone activities that may jeopardize Hong Kong’s stability or impact aviation safety.
“The personal behavior of individual employees does not represent the company’s position,” it said in a statement. “There is zero tolerance to any inappropriate and unprofessional behavior that may affect aviation safety. ”