Aug. 13 (UPI) — A day after thousands of protesters brought the Hong Kong airport to a standstill, almost 350 more flights were canceled Tuesday as China accuses the United States of working to undermine the island’s stability.
More than 170 arrival flights and 175 departures were canceled from 12:05 a.m. to 11:55 p.m. on Tuesday, most of which were scheduled for before noon, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded at the airport for a second day.
On Monday, the airport announced it canceled all flights to and from the Asian flight hub as thousands of protesters submerged the airport into chaos as they demonstrated against police brutality, a controversial extradition bill and China to in-bound passengers for a fourth straight day.
The airport said Tuesday it would be restarting flights, but schedules could be affected.
“Hong Kong International Airport will implement flight rescheduling today with flight movements expected to be affected,” it said in a statement on its website while reminding passengers to check with their airlines for the latest flight information or through the airport’s smartphone application.
In a press briefing Tuesday, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam warned that the situation on the island was threatening to push “Hong Kong into an abyss.”
“Let’s set aside differences and spend one minute to look at our city and home,” she said. “Could we bear to push it into an abyss where everything will perish? We need to object to violence and maintain the rule of law … When this all calms down, we will start to have sincere dialogues and rebuild harmony.”
She said the island was “seriously wounded” and will take “a long time to recover.”
Her comments follow China on Monday describing the unrest on the island as signs of emerging “terrorism.”
“Hong Kong’s radical demonstrators have repeatedly attacked police officers with extremely dangerous tools. They have already constituted serious violent crimes and have begun to show signs of terrorism,” said Yang Guang, spokesman for that State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office. “This is a gross violation of the rule of law and social order in Hong Kong.”
His comments come in reaction to violent protests over the weekend that saw both police and demonstrators, including a woman who allegedly lost sight in one eye after being shot with a bean bag by police, sustaining injuries.
Yang said China stands with police and the Hong Kong administration, stating that such protests “must be resolutely cracked down [upon]” within the confines of the law.
“We strongly support the decisive enforcement of the Hong Kong Police Force and the judiciary and the strict administration of justice,” he said.
Meanwhile, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the United States of conspiring with protesters on the island in order to inflame the situation.
“Some senior U.S. politicians and diplomatic officials met and engaged with anti-China rabble-rousers in Hong Kong, criticized China unreasonably, propped up violent and illegal activities and undermined Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement. “These facts are only too obvious. I’d like to ask the United States this question again: What is the true intention behind your behaviors relating to Hong Kong?”
She said Hong Kong is part of China while urging the United States to “stop interfering in China’s international affairs at once.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell responded to the accusation on Twitter late Monday, stating that “the people of Hong Kong are bravely standing up to the Chinese Communist Party as Beijing tries to encroach on their autonomy and Freedom.”
“Any violent crackdown would be completely unacceptable,” he said. “As I have said on the Senate floor: The world is watching.”
In late July, McConnell accused Beijing of overreaching in its treatment of Hong Kong and warned that it is emblematic of how the Asian country is working to extend its power and influence over other nations.
“The tools and tactics may differ but the goal is the same: Beijing wants to bend its neighbors to its will,” McConnell told the Senate July 23.
The semi-autonomous island of Hong Kong has been rocked by protests that began in early June and have increased in severity, magnitude and violence since as police clash with anti-government protesters who are demanding China not whittle away at the freedoms it does not share with the mainland under its “one country, two systems” model of governance.
The protests began against a controversial extradition bill but have expanded into a wider pro-democracy movement as protesters have accused police of brutality and the government of ignoring their demands.