More than 5,000 protesters gathered at Hong Kong airport on Monday, police said, as authorities cancelled all the day’s remaining flights in and out of the busy international transport hub.
“The information I got before we came in was that in the airport passenger terminal building there are over 5,000 protesters,” said Kong Wing-cheung, senior superintendent of the police public relations branch, at a press conference.
Kong said airport authorities had allowed demonstrators to gather in the arrivals halls – although the protest was not granted a permit from police – but accused the activists of blocking departures.
“Some of the protesters had gone into the departures hall, causing some passengers to be unable to enter the restricted area to exercise their personal freedom, which is to board their flight,” he said.
Pro-democracy activists staged three days of sit-ins at the airport from Friday, but the protests were significantly smaller than Monday’s, which followed a weekend of often violent confrontations between police and demonstrators across the city.
China on Monday slammed violent protesters in Hong Kong who had thrown petrol bombs at police officers and linked them to “terrorism”, as Beijing ramps up its rhetoric against pro-democracy demonstrations in the financial hub.
“Hong Kong’s radical demonstrators have repeatedly used extremely dangerous tools to attack police officers, which already constitutes a serious violent crime, and also shows the first signs of terrorism emerging,” said Yang Guang, spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council.
“This wantonly tramples on Hong Kong’s rule of law and social order,” he said at a press briefing in Beijing.
Yang’s remarks came a day after thousands of pro-democracy protesters defied warnings from authorities to hit the streets for the 10th weekend in a row.
Hong Kong police fired volleys of tear gas Sunday at protestors after denying their requests for permits to stage a march.
But Yang focused on the violent behaviour of a “tiny minority”, which he condemned as “a serious challenge to Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.”
The two-month crisis, which was triggered by opposition to a planned extradition law, has morphed into a wider movement for democratic reform and a halt to eroding freedoms.
It is the biggest threat to Beijing’s rule of the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city since its handover from Britain in 1997 — and has drawn repeated criticism but no forceful actions yet from the central Chinese government.