Hong Kong protests: Demonstrators gather at the airport

A Hong Kong activist stands in front of a departures board at Hong Kong airport, 26 July 2019Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Activists previously gathered at Hong Kong airport in July

Demonstrators have gathered at Hong Kong’s airport, marking the start of three days of unauthorised rallies in the Chinese territory.

Airport authorities warned only those with legitimate travel documents could enter the terminal.

Protests have gripped Hong Kong for weeks, beginning with anger at an extradition bill and morphing into demands for greater freedoms.

The former British colony is part of China but enjoys more autonomy.

It has a free press and judicial independence under the “one country, two systems” approach – freedoms activists fear are being increasingly eroded.

They have called for an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality during the protests, the complete withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill, and the resignation of Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam.

Beijing has warned demonstrators not to “play with fire” or to “underestimate the firm resolve [of] the central government”.

What’s happening at the airport?

Activists have gathered in the arrivals hall in a bid to raise international awareness of their protests. They plan to stay at the facility throughout the weekend.

Fake boarding passes saying “HK to freedom” appeared on social media to promote the rally.

Hong Kong’s Airport Authority said it would “operate normally” despite the planned demonstrations.

A demonstration at the airport on 26 July with thousands of Hong Kongers – including flight staff – took place without violence.

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Media captionHong Kong demonstrators use lasers to create a light show in an anti-government protest on Wednesday

On Thursday, the US became the latest country to issue a travel warning for the territory.

It came on the same day a state department spokeswoman denounced China as a “thuggish regime” after a state newspaper published the name and photo of a US diplomat allegedly talking to activists.

“That is not how a responsible nation would behave,” Morgan Ortagus told reporters.

How is the Chinese government reacting?

On Friday, authorities confirmed that former deputy police commissioner Alan Lau has been brought out of retirement to help handle protests in the territory.

The commander previously oversaw Hong Kong’s pro-democracy rallies in 2014.

Beijing has issued increasingly stern warnings about the continuing demonstrations, and the military recently released a video showing them conducting anti-riot drills.

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Media captionThe video shows a soldier using a loudspeaker to warn protesters

The footage – believed to have been filmed in the territory – shows heavily armed troops descending from helicopters and shooting their way through the streets and into people’s homes.

Why are there protests in Hong Kong?

Demonstrations began in opposition against a proposed extradition bill, which would have allowed suspected criminals to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Critics said it would undermine Hong Kong’s legal freedoms, and could be used to silence critics.

Police were then accused of using excessive force against protesters. Even though Hong Kong authorities agreed to suspend the bill, demonstrations continued, with calls for it to be fully withdrawn and for an independent investigation into police actions.

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Media captionStephen McDonell’s gas mask face visor was smashed by a projectile

Protests have become increasingly confrontational.

On Monday, Ms Lam gave her first media address in two weeks, warning that Hong Kong was “on the verge of a very dangerous situation”.

She also accused activists of using the extradition bill as a cover for their real goal, which was to “destroy Hong Kong”.

Read the full article at: bbc.com