The Hong Kong International Airport cancelled all departures on Monday as thousands of protesters began their fourth day of pro-democracy demonstrations at the busy terminal.
As many as 5,000 protesters swept into the departures area of the airport to voice their frustration with a government that many fear has begun to embrace China and its culture of censorship over the political freedom of the west.
“Airport operations at Hong Kong International Airport have been seriously disrupted as a result of the public assembly at the airport today,” the Hong Kong police said in a statement. “The traffic to the airport is very congested, and the car park spaces at all car parks are already full. Members of the public are advised not to come to the airport.”
The police advised all passengers to leave the terminal, one of the busiest in the world, and said flights would resume at 6 a.m. on Tuesday. In total, the closure will result in the cancellation of more than 150 flights.
Anti-government protests are building momentum as they enter their third month. They began in early June in response to proposed legislation that would have required that Hong Kong turn over citizens to face trial by China’s courts, which are firmly under the control of the Communist party. The legislation has been suspended but not fully withdrawn.
The protesters’ demands have broadened since June to include calls for more-direct elections and an end to the use of excessive force by police. They led a three-day sit-in at the airport over the weekend, interrupting their usual demonstrations in the city’s financial district.
The Chinese central government in Beijing reiterated its support for the Hong Kong police and condemned the protesters for disrupting the airport in a statement on Monday.
“Hong Kong’s radical demonstrators have repeatedly attacked police officers with extremely dangerous means,” said Yang Guang, a spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. “These have already constituted serious violent crimes and have begun to show signs of terrorism.”