Hong Kong’s airport shut down after thousands protest

Authorities said more than 5,000 demonstrators gathered in Hong Kong International Airport. (AFP)
Updated 12 August 2019

Hong Kong’s airport shut down after thousands protest

  • Chinese government coined some of the more violent protests as “terrorism”
  • The demonstrations started 10 weeks ago

HONG KONG: All flights in and out of Hong Kong were canceled on Monday after thousands of pro-democracy protesters flooded the city’s airport to denounce police violence.
The abrupt shutdown at one of the world’s busiest hubs came as the Chinese government signaled its rising anger at the protesters, denouncing some of the violent demonstrations as “terrorism.”
The developments marked yet another dramatic escalation in a 10-week crisis that had already become the biggest challenge to Chinese rule of Hong Kong since the 1997 British handover.
A crowd of protesters that authorities said numbered more than 5,000 descended on Hong Kong airport on Monday carrying placards and chanting slogans denouncing police violence at previous rallies.
Although other rallies had been held over the previous three days, the airport authority said Monday’s one had caused significant chaos.
“Airport operations at Hong Kong International Airport have been seriously disrupted as a result of the public assembly at the airport today,” it said in a statement.
“Other than the departure flights that have completed the check-in process and the arrival flights that are already heading to Hong Kong, all other flights have been canceled for the rest of today.”
It warned that traffic to the airport was “very congested” and the facility’s car parks were completely full.
“Members of the public are advised not to come to the airport.”
At the airport, protesters held signs reading “Hong Kong is not safe” and “Shame on police.”
They were responding to allegations that police were using increasingly violent tactics to suppress protests.
Over the weekend police fired tear gas into subway stations.
Protesters were also enraged at police apparently dressing in the black T-shirts worn by the pro-democracy movement to infiltrate the rallies and make surprise and violent arrests.
Protesters responded on the weekend by hurling bricks and spraying riot police with fire extinguishers and water hoses.
A government official said 45 people were injured in the clashes, including two who were in serious condition.
Among them was a woman who suffered a serious face injury, reportedly after being hit by a bean bag round, with rumors circulating that she had lost her vision in the incident.
Images of her lying on the ground with blood pouring from her face quickly went viral and featured on posters calling for new demonstrations.
It was the 10th consecutive weekend that protesters have taken to the streets in a movement that began over opposition to a bill allowing extradition to mainland China.
The protests have morphed into a broader bid to reverse a slide of democratic freedoms in the southern Chinese city.
In Beijing, authorities slammed violent protesters who had thrown petrol bombs at police officers and linked them to “terrorism.”
“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.”


India arrests senior Kashmir leader under controversial law

Updated 16 min 13 sec ago

India arrests senior Kashmir leader under controversial law

  • Farooq Abdullah, 81, who also was the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, was arrested at his residence in Srinagar
  • ‘We have arrested him, and a committee will decide how long the arrest will be’
NEW DELHI: A Parliament member who is a senior pro-India politician in Indian-controlled Kashmir was arrested Monday under a controversial law that allows authorities to imprison someone for up to two years without charge or trial.
Farooq Abdullah, 81, who also was the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, was arrested at his residence in Srinagar, the summer capital and main city of the disputed Himalayan region.
“We have arrested him, and a committee will decide how long the arrest will be,” said Muneer Khan, a top police official.
Abdullah is the first pro-India politician who has been arrested under the Public Safety Act, under which rights activists say more than 20,000 Kashmiris have been detained in the last two decades.
Amnesty International has called the PSA a “lawless law,” and rights groups say India has used the law to stifle dissent and circumvent the criminal justice system, undermining accountability, transparency, and respect for human rights.
The PSA came into effect in 1978, under the government of Abdullah’s father, who himself was a highly popular Kashmir leader.
The law, in its early days, was supposedly meant to target timber smugglers in Kashmir. After an armed rebellion started in the region in 1989, the law was used against rebels and anti-India protesters.
Abdullah’s residence was declared a subsidiary jail and he was put under house arrest on Aug. 5 when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government in New Delhi stripped Jammu and Kashmir of semi-autonomy and statehood, creating two federal territories.
Thousands of additional Indian troops were sent to the Kashmir Valley, already one of the world’s most militarized regions. Telephone communications, cellphone coverage, broadband Internet and cable TV services were cut for the valley’s 7 million people, although some communications have been gradually restored.
On Aug. 6, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah denied to the lower house of Parliament that Abdullah had been detained or arrested.
“If he (Abdullah) does not want to come out of his house, he cannot be brought out at gunpoint,” Shah said, when other parliamentarians expressed concern over Abdullah’s absence during the debate on Kashmir’s status.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court sought a response from the central government and the Jammu and Kashmir administration on a plea seeking to produce Abdullah before the court.
Many anti-India protesters as well as pro-India Kashmiri leaders have been held in jails and other makeshift facilities to contain protests against India’s decisions, according to police officials.
Kashmir’s special status was instituted shortly after India achieved independence from Britain in 1947. Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in its entirety, but each control only part of it.
India has often tried to suppress uprisings in the region, including a bloody armed rebellion in 1989. About 70,000 people have been killed since that uprising and a subsequent Indian military crackdown.