New protests took place at the arrivals hall of Hong Kong’s airport just hours after flights to and from the territory resumed on Tuesday.
The semiautonomous territory’s leader, Carrie Lam, said demonstrations could push Hong Kong “down a path of no return” and claimed that protesters had created “a state of panic and chaos.”
“Hong Kong, as an open, free, very tolerant, economically stable city will see severe wounds,” Lam said.
Protests began ten weeks ago in opposition to a bill that would allow the territory to extradite people facing criminal charges to mainland China, but they have grown into wider calls for democracy. Demonstrators say they want to fight the erosion of the “one country, two systems” arrangement that, on paper, had enshrined some autonomy for Hong Kong when China took it back from Britain in 1997. They have also documented excessive force by police, who have attempted to put down demonstrations with tear gas and bean bag pellets fired at close range.
Lam did not address protesters’ demands for an independent inquiry. “I ask everybody to put aside our differences and calm down, take a minute to look at our city, our home,” Lam said. “Can we bear to push it into the abyss and see it smashed to pieces?”
The territory’s chief executive, whose resignation is one of the protesters’ central demands, faced questioning from reporters, who repeatedly interrupted her as she defended the conduct of police, who met demonstrations with increasing violence over the weekend. And she dodged a question about whether she had the power to end the standoff by granting one of the key demands of the protesters: to fully withdraw the now-suspended bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China.
Flights resume – so do protests
Flights have resumed at Hong Kong’s airport after Monday’s shutdown. Officials closed the hub following a peaceful sit-in by several thousand black-clad protesters that disrupted operations.
Hours after the airport reopened, protests resumed, as well.
On Tuesday, doctors in Hong Kong staged a protest against the police violence used to put down demonstrations for democracy.
Defending officers, Lam said police were bound by “rigid and stringent guidelines on the appropriate use of force” and faced “extremely difficult circumstances.”
The United States, Canada and European Union have called on all sides to show restraint and avoid violence that could escalate the situation in one of the world’s main business hubs. In addition to weak data from India and Singapore, protests have fed investor anxiety. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell dropped by about 2%. Regional benchmarks – Shanghai, Tokyo, Sydney – retreated.