Over 150 Flights Canceled as Hong Kong Airport Is Flooded by Protesters

HONG KONG — Thousands of anti-government demonstrators flooded Hong Kong’s airport on Monday, in a stark display of the power of the protests to bring one of the world’s busiest transportation hubs to a near halt.

But the escalating tensions have also prompted a more ominous tone from the Chinese leadership. The central government on Monday condemned the protesters’ previous actions, including the use of a gasoline bomb, saying they had “begun to show signs of terrorism.”

Over the weekend, several armored personnel carriers and trucks were also seen in Shenzhen, a mainland city near Hong Kong, according to a report in The Global Times, a nationalist mainland tabloid. The vehicles were from the People’s Armed Police, which handles civil disturbances. The newspaper said they were assembling “in advance of apparent large-scale exercises.”

This summer’s protests in Hong Kong began in early June in opposition to legislation that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where the courts are controlled by the Communist Party. That proposal has since been suspended but not fully withdrawn, and it continues to drive antigovernment sentiment. Other issues have loomed larger in recent weeks, including the stalled promise of more direct elections and the use of force by the police against demonstrators.

Some people said they agreed with the protesters’ pro-democracy agenda.

“If they have to stand for something, as long as it’s peaceful, I can understand that,” said Africa Alvarez, 48, who was flying home to Barcelona. “I can’t take my flight against something which is more important.”

Others expressed frustration.

“I am sympathetic for people who want changes, but I’m not sure it’s the best way to go about it,” said Pauline Price, 52, a movie theater manager from New Zealand.

She said protesters risked losing support if their “ad hoc” moves became too disruptive: “Hong Kong was stable. It was one of the safest places in the world. This damages the image of Hong Kong.”

As passengers and protesters streamed out of the airport, they formed long lines for taxis and the Airport Express train. Many protesters walked to the nearby town of Tung Chung to take the subway.

Hong Kong residents were especially appalled by confrontations on Sunday between protesters and police officers that took place inside subway stations, part of the city’s famously reliable public transit system.

Noel Tse, a 29-year-old nurse, said she had joined the airport protest because she thought the police had acted with excessive force against demonstrators on Sunday night.

“This incident is no longer a political issue,” she said. “It is a battle between right and wrong.”

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