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Hong Kong latest: Trains to airport cut amid fresh protest calls

  Hong Kong faced a fifth straight day of protests at its airport, as embattled local leader Carrie Lam warned that city risked sliding into an “abyss.”

Lam addressed reporters after airlines including Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. cancelled hundreds more flights in the wake of a mass sit-in by anti-government protesters that caused the airport to briefly halt service Monday. Demonstrators continued to gather in the main terminal building Tuesday, although the airport said normal operations had been restored.

Thousands of black-clad demonstrators occupied the airport on Monday following a weekend of violence that saw police fire tear gas into a subway station and rubber bullets at close range.

Here’s the latest:

Key Developments:

#antiELAB protesters stream out of the Hong Kong airport #HongKongProtests #香港 pic.twitter.com/He5Sfal5Ol

Airport Train Services Cut (12:51 p.m.)

Hong Kong’s Airport Authority announced that trains between downtown and the terminals would depart less frequently after 1 p.m. in a bid to control crowds. The agency said fewer trains were necessary due to reduced flights at the airport. Trains would run at 15-minute intervals instead of the usual 10-minute span, an agency spokesman said.

Travelers Confront Protesters at Airport (11:15 a.m.)

Some travelers whose flights were disrupted by the airport protests confronted demonstrators, including one man speaking the Mandarin Chinese dialect preferred on the mainland, who complained that his trip had been delayed by a day. One protester apologized to the man, explaining that the government wouldn’t listen to their demands. Others shrugged off the delays.

Lam: Poli
c

e Used ‘Lowest Level’ of Force (10:14 a.m.)

Lam said police used the “lowest level of force” when asked why they had fired tear gas in residential areas, as she held a regular Q+A session ahead of a meeting of the city’s Executive Council. She urged calm, a refrain in recent weeks as violence between protesters and police worsens and tear gas is regularly deployed in crowded areas across the city.

At one point, she was interrupted by reporters as she sidestepped questions on whether she would resign -- a key protester demand -- and whether she had concrete proposals to ease residents’ fears.

“It would take a very long time to restore Hong Kong,” she said, choking up. “I again call on everyone to set aside prejudice, and be calm to look at the city, our home -- do we really want to push it into the abyss?”

Lam Says Hong Kong in Chaos (9:48 a.m.)

After her session began, Lam asked the public whether they wanted to see Hong Kong fall into an abyss and said the city was in a chaotic situation.

The city’s rule of law is being hurt, she said, and non-cooperation events affected the airport and traffic. Lam also said she saw further suffering for the city’s economy, and that dialogue between the two sides could resume after violence stops.

Protesters Call for Return to Airport (9 a.m.)

Some protesters called for a return to the airport at 1 p.m. Tuesday, circulating a flyer online calling for people to gather featuring an airplane and blue sky.

Hong Kong Airlines vowed its support for the city’s government and police and condemned protester violence in a half-page advertisement in pro-Beijing local newspaper Wen Wei Po. It came as state-run Air China Ltd. canceled dozens of scheduled flights to the city on Tuesday, citing issues at the airport in a post to its official account on Chinese social media platform Weibo.

Read more from Monday’s scene at Hong Kong’s airport

#香港 pic.twitter.com/BguBaLJjIN

Airport resumes normal operation (6:40 a.m.)

The airport was operating normally as of now, a staff at the airport’s customer service hotline said by phone. It is re-scheduling 90 canceled flights from Monday.

It may cancel more flights Tuesday depending on the situation as some protesters remained at the arrival hall. Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific has canceled more than 200 flights to and out of Hong Kong Tuesday.

Airport Protesters Largely Depart (1:14 a.m.)

The vast majority of the thousands of protesters who occupied the airport have now left, picking up their posters and tidying up as they departed. After a day of drama, the airport is largely quiet. Now the question will be how many return later in the morning.

Separately, Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of China’s state-run Global Times, said on his Weibo account that if the situation in Hong Kong doesn’t improve, he thinks China will intervene. Earlier, the Chinese People’s Armed Police were seen assembling in Shenzhen city ahead of “apparent large-scale exercises,” Global Times reported on its website, citing videos it obtained.

Another Mass Rally Called for Next Sunday (8:25 p.m.)

The Civil Human Rights Front, a group that has organized some of the largest rallies during 10 weeks of protests, announced that it would hold another “mass march” on Sunday, Aug. 18. The group will brief reporters on Tuesday.

Police Warn Separate Group Protesting Downtown (8:21 p.m.)

Officers warned a separate group of protesters to disperse after they gathered outside the police headquarters in the downtown area of Wan Chai.

At one point, a policeman came out to accept a letter from a protester, and both of them shook hands. Still, the crowds continued to linger.

Airport Seeks to Reopen on Tuesday Morning (7:40 p.m.)

Hong Kong International Airport said the local airport authority is working with airlines to reschedule flights from 6 a.m. on Tuesday, according to a statement.

Any rescheduling is contingent on the airport resuming operations, which still remains unclear. Thousands of protesters remain inside the airport chanting “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time.”

Protesters Start Departing on Foot (7:0

6 p.m.)

The crowd at the airport thinned out as large groups of black-shirted protesters left the airport and began walking en masse down Airport Road, a major artery which didn’t have much traffic headed toward the airport. Most people were headed to Tung Chung -- a neighborhood whose metro station leads back to central areas -- according to video feed from local news outlet Apple Daily.

Stranded passengers walking with luggage were also seen on the Apple Daily feed. Amid the exodus, police concluded a marathon hours-long media briefing by saying they had completed road tests of water cannon vehicles that could now be deployed depending on the situation.

Government Warns Protesters to Leave Airport (5:43 p.m.)

A top Hong Kong official urged demonstrators to head home as concerns grew that police would take action to clear the area.

“For the safety of all flights, passengers and people who work in the airport, I urge all the people assembled at the Hong Kong International Airport to leave as soon as possible,” Hong Kong’s Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan told reporters.

It was unclear how many flights were impacted, according to Doris Lai, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong Airport Authority. The airport said in an earlier statement that it was aiming to restore operations as soon as possible.

Tear Gas Possible at Airport (5:25 p.m.)

Police don’t rule out the possibility of tear gas being deployed at the airport on Monday, deputy police commissioner Tang Ping-keung told reporters gathered at police headquarters in Wan Chai.

He said it will be up to the commander at the scene to decide on the appropriate use of force. Police don’t characterize the current protests as “terrorism” and instead see themselves as dealing with radical “rioters,” said another official at the briefing, Li Kwai-wah, senior superintendent of the police’s Organized Crime and Triad Bureau.

Cathay Pacific Flights Canceled Until Tuesday (5:24 p.m.)

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., Hong Kong’s main airline, said flights departing from the city will be canceled until Tuesday morning, the company said in a travel advisory on its website. Customers should postpone non-essential travel, it said.

Shares of the company tumbled to a 10-year low after the news. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index came off its session high and contracts for all three main U.S. equity indexes erased earlier gains.

People’s Armed Police Gather: Global Times (4:56 p.m.)

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper said on its website that its paramilitary People’s Armed Police have been assembling in Shenzhen, a megacity just across the border between Hong Kong and the mainland, ahead of “apparent large-scale exercises.”

“Numerous” armored personnel carriers, trucks and other vehicles of the force were seen heading toward Shenzhen over the weekend, it said. The paper, a tabloid run by the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship mouthpiece, cited videos it obtained.

Monday Flights Canceled (4:18 p.m.)

Hong Kong’s Airport Authority announced that all departing flights and arrivals not already en route the city have been canceled for the rest of the day.

Operations “have been seriously disrupted as a result of the public assembly at the airport today,” it said in a statement. “The traffic to the airport is very congested, and the car park spaces at all carparks are already full. Members of the public are advised not to come to the airport.”

China says Protesters Show Signs

of Terrorism (4:07 p.m.)

China stepped up its rhetoric on Monday, with a key mainland official saying protesters have committed serious crimes and showed signs of “terrorism.”

Hong Kong has come to a “critical juncture” and all people who care about its future should say no to violence, Yang Guang, a spokesman for its Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, told reporters on Monday.
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