Hong Kong protesters stage airport rally to win visitor support
HONG KONG – Hundreds of pro-democracy activists, some wearing face masks and helmets, staged a sit-in at Hong Kong's airport on Friday, August 9, hoping to win support from international visitors for their movement.
"No rioters, only tyranny," the demonstrators chanted as they began a three-day action – the latest in a string of protests that have rocked the international financial hub for more than two months.
Activists, some dressed in the movement's signature black, sat on the floor in the airport's arrivals hall and held up signs in Chinese and English condemning police violence.
"Save Hong Kong from tyranny and police brutality!" read one sign on a piece of cardboard.
"Ask me about Hong Kong" read signs in different languages attached to the sleeves of some of the approximately 1,000 people participating.
"We want to let more people know about what's happening in Hong Kong," said one protester, who asked to be identified only by her surname Choi.
'This is very important'
The protests began two months ago in response to a controversial bill to allow extraditions to mainland China, but have morphed into a broader movement urging authorities to reverse a slide in democratic freedoms.
Protesters also want direct election of the city's leader and an investigation into alleged police brutality towards demonstrators.
The government has suspended the extradition bill, but failed to fully withdraw it, and demonstrations have become increasingly violent in recent weeks. Hundreds of people have been arrested.
"We want the government to withdraw the bill and set up an independent inquiry commission," said Choi.
"I also want to be here to support those who were arrested because our goals are the same."
The three-day airport rally was promoted online with a mock boarding pass reading "HK to freedom" and "warm pick-up to guests to HK".
Passengers arriving at the airport appeared confused as they came into the hall to see the sit-in, with some stopping to take photos or look at leaflets being handed out by the demonstrators.
Clara Boudehen, visiting from France, said she was "very impressed" by the rally.
"I think this is very important," she said.
"Our democracy is not absolute, we have to fight for it.... To see the population fight for democracy is very important."
The airport sit-ins have not been authorized, but a previous demonstration at the transport hub passed off peacefully without disrupting flights.
New weekend protests planned
As the protest movement has expanded, demonstrators have staged rallies across Hong Kong, attracting families, older people, civil servants and lawyers.
They have announced a series of marches and protests across the city over the weekend as they work to keep momentum alive and demonstrate continued support for their goals.
Extra security measures were put in place at the airport for the rallies, with authorities preventing anyone without a boarding pass from entering the check-in area.
Hong Kong's Airport Authority said Thursday, August 8, it was aware of the planned rallies but that "the airport will operate normally."
Thousands of Hong Kongers, including flight attendants, rallied at the airport on July 26 to "educate" visitors about the protests that have gripped the international finance hub.
Visitors were greeted by a sea of black-clad protesters chanting anti-government slogans, holding banners and handing out flyers – the information desk plastered in a tapestry of colorful sticky notes.
The weeks of demonstrations pose the biggest threat to Beijing's authority since Hong Kong's handover from the British in 1997.
And as protests have become increasingly violent, several countries have upgraded their travel warnings for Hong Kong, with Washington this week urging its citizens to "exercise increased caution." – Rappler.com