Everything You Need To Know About The Violent Protests In Hong Kong
Last weekend marked the 10th straight week that protesters in Hong Kong took to the streets of the city to protest, in what have become increasingly violent demonstrations.
The weekend's protests saw police once again fire tear gas at anti-government protesters, with violent arrests showing some demonstrators cornered and beaten with batons.
A controversial new police tactic of using 'disguised' officers also emerged, with media on the ground reporting undercover officers dressed as protesters would suddenly restrain demonstrators until riot squad police arrived.
The unrest in Hong Kong -- considered Asia's "financial hub" -- has heavily affecting tourism, with travel warnings raised from several countries, including Australia.
Flights Disrupted As Protests Hit Airport
On Monday, all flights from Hong Kong's international airport, one of the world's busiest, ground to a halt following a large demonstration at the terminal.
According to Reuters reporters on the ground, the airport had been filled with anti-government protesters, clad in black and chanting "Liberate Hong Kong!" for several days.
“This is about our freedom,” a 24-year-old protester wearing a mask, who gave his name only as Yu, told Reuters during the evening. “Why should we leave?”
An arriving passenger told Reuters the protests at the airport seemed peaceful, but local police said some activists had moved to the departures lounge and caused disruptions.
Close to 200 flights are believed to have been affected by the cancellations on Monday, with local aviation authorities working to get flights back off the ground by Tuesday morning.
But by Tuesday evening Australian time, it was announced all departing flights had been cancelled for a second day in a row, according to reports.
Cathay Pacific, the flag carrier of Hong Kong, cancelled more than 100 flights across Monday and Tuesday and told customers to postpone non-essential travel from the airport.
"This is as a result of the public assembly taking place at Hong Kong International Airport," a statement on its website said.
Australians hoping to fly in and out of Hong Kong were also affected.
Qantas cancelled four flights operating from Hong Kong to Australia on Mondy night, with three more due to fly from Australia to Hong Kong on Tuesday.
A spokesperson told 10 News First cancelled flights out of Hong Kong were due to leave on Tuesday bound for Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
Virgin Australia also delayed two of their flights from Hong Kong to Australia on Monday night, which were due to depart on Tuesday morning.
"At this stage, all other Virgin Australia flights are operating as expected, however, we continue to monitor the situation and advise guests to check their flight status on our website before heading to the airport," a spokesperson told 10 News First.
'Extremely COncerned': International Response
It comes less than a week after the Australian Government raised their travel advice level to "exercise a high degree of caution" with concerns continuing protests would become "more unpredictable".
"There is a risk of violent confrontation between protestors and police, or criminally-linked individuals, particularly at unauthorised protests," a DFAT statement said.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was "concerned" about the situation in Hong Kong when asked about the flight cancellations.
"We're concerned particularly because of the number of Australians, residents and citizens that are in Hong Kong both on a long-term basis and on a short-term basis, it is one of our most busy consulates and so our consular role there at the moment is very heightened and they're very active," Morrison told reporters.
"But as always my view is one to seek to de-escalate things, to encourage the Chief Executive of Hong Kong to be listening carefully to what people are saying in Hong Kong and work towards a peaceful and calm resolution of what is a very serious issue."
It follows a similar call from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he was "extremely concerned" over the situation.
"We see the need for de-escalation of tensions, we need to see the local authorities listening to the very serious concerns brought forward by Chinese citizens," Trudeau said.
Hong Kong is home to about 300,000 Canadian citizens, according to Reuters.
U.S. President Donald Trump had earlier drawn some criticism for referring to the protests as riots, with his administration later doubling down on his calls for an end to violence on both sides.
A spokesperson reiterated Trump's earlier remarks that it was a matter between Hong Kong and China, “with the understanding that ‘they’re looking for democracy and I think most people want democracy'."
Why Are Protests Still Continuing?
The protests, which first began more than two months ago, initially saw close to a million people take to the streets over a controversial bill which would have seen people extradited to the mainland for trial in communist-party-controlled courts.
Since then, the reasons for the protests have widened, highlighting wider grievances of Hong Kong locals and increasing pressure on Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam to step down.
READ MORE: Hong Kong Police Fire Tear Gas At Protesters
Earlier this month, demonstrators were joined by thousands of civil servants, in what was the first time government employees promoted a demonstration in Hong Kong.
"At present the people of Hong Kong are already on the verge of collapse," a group of civil servants said in an open letter to Lam earler in August. "Hong Kong has always been well behaved and enjoys a high degree of freedom. It is a pity that we have seen extreme oppression..."
It asked Lam to respond positively to five public demands: complete withdrawal of the extradition bill; a halt to descriptions of the protests as 'rioting'; a waiver of charges against those arrested; an independent inquiry and resumption of political reform.
But on Tuesday, Lam remained defiant, refusing to comment on whether her hands were tied in removing the suspended bill together, and saying that "lawbreaking activities in the name of freedom" were damaging the rule of law.
Lam told reporters the demonstrations' impact on Hong Kong would take a long time to rebuild from.
Her comments came just hours after China said the protests have begun to show "sprouts of terrorism", sparking fears China would use the rhetoric to trigger government forces to use extensive anti-terror laws against demonstrators.