Hong Kong's City Centre Crippled As Huge Protests Continue

More than 200 flights have been cancelled and the city has been crippled, as Hong Kong's embattled leader has warned that protests gripping the city are a challenge to China's sovereignty.

Beijing-backed Carrie Lam addressed the media for the first time in two weeks after yet another weekend of violent protests and reiterated that the demonstrations were pushing the city to the verge of an "extremely dangerous situation".

Protesters and commuters clash on a Mass Transit Railway (MTR) subway train as protesters disrupt services by preventing train doors from closing. Photo: EPA

Lam again rejected calls from protesters for her to resign and said the government would be resolute in maintaining law and order. She warned the protests were putting Hong Kong on a path of no return and had hurt the city's economy.

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The Chinese-controlled city has been rocked by months of protests that began against an extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial and have since evolved into calls for greater democracy.

Passengers look at an electronic billboard displaying flight information at Hong Kong International Airport. Photo: EPA

Commuters struggled to get to work in the Monday morning rush hour before Lam spoke, with many rail and bus services suspended, while some activists blocked trains from leaving stations in the latest anti-government campaign.

Long lines of traffic could be seen across Hong Kong island leading into the heart of the business centre and hundreds of people were stranded at the airport.

Protesters sit on the roads near the Legislative Council building and the Central Government building. Photo: EPA

Police arrested 44 people after sometimes violent clashes overnight when police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators who moved swiftly across the city in flash mob-style actions.

The protests have at times shut government offices, blocked roads and disrupted business, posing the greatest political challenge to the former British colony since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Commuters argue with protesters on a Mass Transit Railway (MTR) subway train as protesters disrupt train services. Photo: EPA

Millions of people have taken to the streets to vent anger and frustration at the city's government, presenting the biggest popular challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.

China's official Xinhua news agency said on Sunday: "The central government will not sit idly by and let this situation continue. We firmly believe that Hong Kong will be able to overcome the difficulties and challenges ahead".