Hong Kong grounds all flights as protest paralyzes airport: Live updates - CNN
Hong Kong officials call for protesters to clear the airport
Frank Chan, Hong Kong’s transportation chief, told reporters that officials are calling for people to quickly leave the airport for safety reasons.
"For the safety of airlines, tourists and staffs, we call for people at the airport to quickly leave the airport for our staff to continue the operation," said Chan. "We can only return to operation after considering tourists' and staff's safety."
"The Hong Kong airport is important for the logistic and transport industry. It is easy to lose, but it is really hard to build up the reputation," he said.
He added that the traffic jams and grounded flights are causing inconvenience, emphasizing that there are about 200,000 tourists coming to Hong Kong every day -- a key part of the city's economy.
There have been signs that the travel industry is taking a hit -- between June 16 and July 13, during which time there were several huge demonstrations, flight bookings to Hong Kong from Asia fell by 5.4% on the same period last year, according to analysis firm ForwardKeys.
Airport protesters: "Sorry for the inconvenience but we're fighting for survival!"
Protesters have plastered posters, flyers and even spray-painted graffiti all over the airport.
One makeshift sign reads: "Sorry for the inconvenience but we're fighting for survival!"
Another says: "Shame on the cops." The sign refers to the police officers who protesters are accusing of brutality, corruption, inaction, and use of excessive force.
All departing flights, and several incoming flights, have been canceled because of the airport shutdown.
Why Hong Kong's young protesters feel they're running out of time in fight for democracy
When protesters in Hong Kong last month, social media users in China were united in outrage.
"The dignity of our motherland won't be allowed to be trampled," one person wrote on Weibo, the country's , while another warned the young protesters that "playing violently is how you seek death."
A third commenter sought to reassure others, writing that "the central government promised that Hong Kong won't be changed for 50 years. There's only 28 years left before Hong Kong becomes part of (China)."
A looming deadline: That 2047 deadline, on which the clock began ticking after the United Kingdom , is at the forefront of the minds of the mostly young protesters who have been taking to the streets for over two months now, .
What began as protests over a now-suspended extradition bill have , including calls for greater democracy and more government accountability, that many feel they are running out of time to achieve.
Even as democratic values have increasingly come under threat around the world, and many voters in democracies are increasingly expressing apathy or despair, young Hong Kongers are determined to continue a fight for freedom which began decades ago under British rule, before time runs out and Hong Kong becomes just another Chinese city.
"Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times," the slogan of the protests has become.
Cathay Pacific warns staff of “zero tolerance" with protests
Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong's flag-carrier airline, has told its employees that it has “has a zero-tolerance approach to illegal activities” and will comply with China’s ban on staff who have protested.
The memo from the company’s CEO, Rupert Hogg, warned that "there will be disciplinary consequences for employees who support or participate in illegal protests. These consequences could be serious and may include termination of employment.”
On Friday, China's Civil Aviation Administration ordered Cathay to ban staff who have participated in and support the protests from doing "all air transport duties related to flights to and from the mainland."
Hogg's memo also warned employees against posting protest-related content on social media, saying: "You should not post anything that breaches privacy of colleagues, constitutes bullying or harassment or could bring Cathay Pacific Group into disrepute.”
Tourists stranded without information
Milling about among the thousands of protesters at Hong Kong's international airport are many confused passengers who don't know what's happening with their flights, dozens of which have been cancelled this evening.
Hong Kong permanent resident Lawrence Hahn said he had arrived to find his flight canceled and no Cathay Pacific staff to be found.
"There's not a single Cathay staff member here," he said.
"Not a single one."
He was supposed to be flying to New York.
Fitness worker Rachel Moon said she supported the protesters but shutting down the airport was too "extreme."
Kim Macaranas, from Brisbane, shared Hahn and Moon's frustration. Her family's flight has been cancelled and they are just waiting for news.
"We are devastated there are no staff here to tell us what
to do. Thats the worst of it. Stuck trying to ring our
airlines and family in Australia trying to rebook. Got told
to come early but they should have known and told us. Have
had to put data on -- no signal," she told CNN.
There are long queues for the toilets and 7/11 convenience stores, with few places to get water or other supplies.
"We are waiting to hear what's happened, do we get on a flight later? Do we wait? Family in Australia are trying to find out," she said, adding that airline staff were "very rude."
"There are no loudspeakers giving us information," Macaranas said. "We love Hong Kong but it does change our whole perspective. I understand the protests but this is not helping tourism."
Flights to Hong Kong are also being canceled
Flights departing from Hong Kong have been grounded -- but incoming flights are also being diverted or canceled.
At Bangkok Airport, this sign is notifying travelers that Cathay Pacific flights CX708 and CX704, scheduled to depart at 5:30 p.m. and 6:55 p.m. Hong Kong time, have been canceled due to the Hong Kong airport shutdown.
Why are protesters targeting the airport?
Hong Kong's international airport -- one of the busiest in Asia -- had emerged as a key protest target before today's mass gathering, as anti-government demonstrators looked to take their message directly to the international community.
At the airport over the weekend, leaflets in Chinese, English, French, Korean, Japanese and other languages were handed out to arriving international visitors, explaining the causes of the unrest -- as protesters see it -- and the demands of the opposition movement.
Showcasing the , other pamphlets and posters also advertised planned demonstrations as "new tourist spots," handed out airline tickets "to freedom" and advised tourists what to do if they were caught in the protests during their visit.
The economy takes a hit: While China is Hong Kong's most important trading partner, the city is an international business and financial hub, and the economy is as a result of the protests.
Businesses, both international and local, in Hong Kong have also faced pressure and accusations of acting in concert or sympathizing with the protesters. Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong's flagship carrier and a major local employer, has been ordered by Chinese aviation authorities to ban staff who took part in protests from traveling to China.
The PR battle: By appealing to the international community, and making sure it is their message that most foreigners are seeing, protesters have shown themselves adept at public relations. Meanwhile despite carrying out regular press briefings, the Hong Kong government has at times appeared at a loss as to how to engage with residents and protesters.