Protests in Hong Kong interrupted the city’s airport for a second day with flight check-ins halted since mid-afternoon, following the cancellation of more than a hundred flights the day prior.
Thousands of protesters gathered at Hong Kong International Airport, one of the world’s busiest aviation hubs, ignoring local authorities’ warnings to disperse. The city has been roiled by 10 weeks of protests, which originally began as a backlash to a proposed extradition bill but has since spawned into a larger movement expressing anger at the overall erosion of freedoms in the special administrative region.
The sit-in crowds held up signs at the airport, with many chanting antipolice slogans and complaining of heavy-handed tactics against the protesters over the last few months.
The array of grievances against the police force has grown steadily — a number wore eye bandages referencing an injury sustained by one protester on Sunday after being hit in close proximity by police officers. Others held up signs that demanded accountability for the way the police arrested and carried off one female protester, which resulted in her genitals being exposed.
In addition, Hong Kong police over the weekend fired tear gas, which is designed for use outdoors, inside a subway station and chased protesters down escalators.
The scenes prompted the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to release a statement Tuesday expressing concern over the escalation of violence in the recent days.
“The UN Human Rights Office has reviewed credible evidence of law enforcement officials employing less-lethal weapons in ways that are prohibited by international norms and standards,” it said.
“For example, officials can be seen firing tear gas canisters into crowded, enclosed areas and directly at individual protesters on multiple occasions, creating a considerable risk of death or serious injury.”
“The office urges the Hong Kong SAR authorities to act with restraint, to ensure that the right of those who are expressing their views peacefully are respected and protected, while ensuring that the response by law enforcement officials to any violence that may take place is proportionate and in conformity with international standards on the use of force, including the principles of necessity and proportionality.”
Hong Kong’s leader, chief executive Carrie Lam, also spoke publicly on Tuesday in a press conference in which she stated she was “heartbroken” by the scenes of violence but did not cede any new ground to the protesters’ demands that would resolve the political impasse.
More protests have planned until at least through August, targeting various areas of the city. In addition to the airport, the metro system has been the target of acts of civil disobedience and marches have interrupted major road arteries.