How Hong Kong airport protests ended in chaos


Unprecedented scenes of violence broke out at the Hong Kong International Airport after thousands of anti-government protesters occupying the airport terminal building brought flights to a halt for two days straight. This is how the events unfolded

More than 250 flights departed on Monday, August 12, before the airport made an official statement at 4pm local time saying all further departures would be rescheduled to the next day. The Airport Authority blamed the cancellations on the protests, which had “seriously disrupted” operations. The mass of demonstrators made it difficult for passengers to check in and clear airport security.

During the disruption, some planes had to divert or return to their place of departure.

Demonstrations continued for the fifth straight day at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA). The air traffic hub located at Chek Lap Kok on Lantau Island is one of the world’s busiest international airports.

Protesters arrived en masse as anger towards the government grew, triggered by an escalation of police use of force over the weekend with accusations that officers blinded a woman when she was hit in the eye with a beanbag round.

Thousands of demonstrators descended on the arrivals and departures halls of the complex and prevented passengers from checking in or clearing airport security for flights.

Severe crowding on the airport bus and train services forced many travellers to leave the airport on foot, carrying their luggage with them at around 6pm. The closest available transport service was Tung Chung MTR station, over 3km from the airport terminals. Many protesters left at the same time to avoid a rumoured showdown with police.

Passengers were left stranded when more than 300 flights were cancelled on Tuesday, August 13, the day after the mass sit-in brought one of the world’s busiest travel hubs to a complete halt. As of 8am, 160 departing flights and 150 arrivals, due to leave or land at the airport between midnight on Monday evening and 11.55pm on Tuesday, were cancelled.

A woman cries out as she attempts to navigate through the crowd of anti-government protesters at the departures hall of Hong Kong International Airport, as they attempt to paralyse one of the world’s busiest aviation hubs for a second consecutive day. Photo: Sam Tsang

Anti-government protesters returned on Tuesday, flooding the departures hall again and forcing the Airport Authority to suspend flights. Only passengers checked in before 4.30pm were able to fly while incoming flights continued.


Unprecedented violence broke out at the airport late in the evening of Tuesday, August 13, after protesters assaulted and detained a man they suspected to be an undercover agent from the mainland. Riot police wielding batons and pepper spray moved in after protesters refused to release the man.

A riot police office drew his gun after protesters snatched his baton and beat him. Photo: Felix Wong

A second man, later confirmed to be Fu Guohao, a reporter for mainland news outlet Global Times, was also surrounded and assaulted. The Airport Authority obtained a court order stopping people from unlawfully and wilfully obstructing or interfering with the proper use of the airport. The airport was in recovery mode on Wednesday but dozens of rescheduled flights managed to depart in the morning.

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