On Monday I shared information that all flights were suspended at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) due to the sheer number of pro-democracy protestors. They had been arriving in greater numbers with the intent of sharing their message with arriving passengers and also to purposely cause disruption in flight schedules.
It’s a common tactic in protests — to get attention for your cause you must first interfere with the ordinary events of life — and in this case it was very effective. Hong Kong is a city known for orderliness and calm. The airport shutdown was anything but. Delays continued into Tuesday and many airlines were forced to cancel flights, even turning around mid-air to return to their point of origin.
Airport authorities attempted to keep out more protestors by enforcing a limit on passengers with proof of travel, but that was ineffective. Eventually anti-riot police arrived, causing a violent skirmish that seems to have worked.
The Guardian reports that Hong Kong’s airport has now reopened for business, and the number of protestors remaining is in the dozens. They seem to have given up the fight at this location …for now. But this line says it all: “Check-in desks were operating normally while staff scrubbed the terminals clean of blood and debris from overnight.”
It remains to be seen how much more unrest will be required before mainland Chinese authorities bring in the military to restore order in this semi-autonomous region. I expect it to happen eventually. Hong Kong protestors have been growing increasingly frustrated with the influence of the Chinese on local government, yet China views the pro-democracy movement as a threat to the controlling Communist party.
There is no safe, diplomatic outcome to this dilemma, and so, while the planes may be in the air again, I continue to recommend that travelers avoid Hong Kong for the near future.