Hong Kong Cancels All Flights Out of Airport as Protesters Stage Massive Sit-In

Flights out of Hong Kong were canceled on Monday morning as thousands of protesters occupied the airport terminal building. Activists have been protesting a bill allowing authorities to detain and extradite people who are wanted in countries or territories that Hong Kong does not have extradition agreements with, including mainland China and Taiwan. Protesters fear such a law would place Hong Kong residents under the jurisdiction of courts controlled by the Communist Party of China.

While the extradition bill began as a response after a man accused of murder in Taiwan fled to Hong Kong, protesters reasonably fear that the Communist Party will take advantage of the situation and attempt to arrest political dissidents who flee China for Hong Kong. Protests began in March and April, but escalated in June.

New protests around the airport began on Friday, according to the South China Morning Post. On Sunday, protesters and police clashed, and police used tear gas. Tsim Sha Tsui, a female protester, was reportedly hit with a beanbag in the eye, and a doctor said she could lose her right eye due to the injury.

Protesters covered their eyes in solidarity, and by 3 p.m., thousands of protesters had joined a sit-in at the arrivals hall. The flights were canceled at 4 p.m.

"All check-in service for departure flights has been suspended," the airport operator 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 cancelled for the rest of [Monday]," the operator said, according to the Post.

Olivia Enos, senior policy analyst for Asian Studies at the Heritage Foundation, urged the U.S. to support freedom but also condemn violence in Hong Kong.

"The introduction of the extradition law that sparked protests in Hong Kong revealed a broader fear of Hong Kongers, that come 2047 (or before) they would be required to surrender their freedoms at the feet of Beijing," Enos said in a statement. "The international community should watch China's rhetoric and actions closely. More importantly, the U.S. should determine what its long-term role will be in supporting freedom in Hong Kong."

"The U.S. should stand by the people of Hong Kong as they seek freedom, but also be unequivocal in condemning senseless violence," she added. "The U.S. should consider carefully what its policies will look like post-2047 and consider what steps can be taken now to preserve freedom in Hong Kong."

Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.