Following two days of unprecedented flight cancellations, Hong Kong’s airport authority has obtained an interim court injunction for a crackdown on anti-government protestors. In a statement released Wednesday morning, the operator said the order applies to people who “unlawfully and willfully” obstruct or interfere with airport operations.
“Persons are also restrained from attending or participating in any demonstration or protest or public order event in the Airport other than in the area designated by the Airport Authority,” the statement said.
The court order, published on the airport’s website, said protestors could face imprisonment or fines or be held in contempt of court. The injunction covers roads, passageways, entry and exit points, and access control points in or near the airport. Protestors who obstruct airport workers and security guards also risk arrest. Under Hong Kong law, those found guilty of rioting could face up to 10 years in jail. At a police conference today, officers warned that illegal activities carried out at the airport could result in heavier penalties including life imprisonment.
Hong Kong resumed operations early Wednesday morning, working through a major backlog of canceled flights after demonstrators brought the city’s air transport hub to a standstill for a second time on Tuesday. Scenes of chaos erupted late last night between protestors and riot police after demonstrators temporarily detained three people believed to be undercover police officers. Media footage uploaded to YouTube shows a police officer drawing his gun after being beaten by baton-wielding protestors. Other videos depict violent clashes between riot police and demonstrators. The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing condemned the airport protests in a statement Wednesday, characterizing the action as “conduct close to terrorism.”
In an attempt to recover from the crippling effect from last night’s protests, the airport authority took extra precaution on Wednesday, limiting terminal access to airport staff and departing passengers traveling within 24 hours. Authorities tightened security outside the terminal and closed two parking decks. Meanwhile, Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific issued a travel advisory informing passengers of a “potential for further flight disruptions at short notice.”
Cathay Pacific also took to media today, publishing a half-page advertisement in the Hong Kong Economic Journal condemning the violence while expressing its support for China. Cathay’s largest stakeholder—Swire Pacific—and the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions issued similar statements.
According to Cathay Pacific, the airline and its Dragonair regional unit canceled 272 flights in the past two days, affecting more than 55,000 passengers.