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Hong Kong airport grinds to halt; China likens protests to terrorism

Hong Kong airport grinds to halt; China likens protests to terrorism

Reuters
HONG KONG
Hong Kong’s airport halted flights on Monday, blaming demonstrators for the disruption, while China said the anti-government protests that have swept the city over the past two months had begun to show “sprouts of terrorism”.
The airport authority said it was working with airlines to resume flights from 6 a.m. on Tuesday, but the developments raise the stakes sharply after a weekend of skirmishes during which both activists and police toughened their stances.
Some Hong Kong legal experts say official descriptions of some protesters’ actions as terrorism could lead to the use of extensive anti-terror laws and powers against them.
China’s People’s Armed Police also assembled in the neighbouring city of Shenzhen for exercises, the state-backed Global Times newspaper said.
The Communist Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper said on the Twitter-like Weibo that the force can handle incidents including riots or terrorist attacks.
Hong Kongers responded by taking to the streets again.
Crowds picketed a police station, singing hymns. Hundreds of people returned to a subway station where police had hit activists with batons, to protest against heavy-handed tactics.
The increasingly violent demonstrations have plunged the Chinese-ruled territory into its most serious crisis in decades, presenting Chinese leader Xi Jinping with one of his biggest challenges since he came to power in 2012.
“Hong Kong has come to a critical juncture,” said Hong Kong and Macau Affairs office spokesman Yang Guang in Beijing.
“Protesters have been frequently using extremely dangerous tools to attack the police in recent days, constituting serious crimes with sprouts of terrorism emerging.”
The protests began in opposition to a bill allowing extradition to the mainland but have widened to highlight other grievances, winning broad support.
The precise trigger for the airport’s closure was not clear, since protesters occupying the arrivals hall for four days have been peaceful. Hundreds remained there late on Monday, talking, resting and playing cards.

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