MIAMI — After two days of blocking check-ins at the world’s eighth busiest airport, the Hong Kongese protesters and their supporters were pushed out of the Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), also known as Chek Lap Kok Airport, by authorities.
The airport demonstrations mark the most recent countermeasure in an 8-week long protest that has amassed a following of over 2 million people.
Passengers are now required to show a valid boarding pass before entering the terminal buildings at HKG.
On Monday, protesters flooded the airport terminals for a peaceful sit-in that later turned violent, with protesters clashing with police.
The airport disruptions are just another protest meant to pressure Hong Kong Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, and force her to step down.
What began in June as a protest of extradition legislation has now boiled over into a larger fight for democracy that has called into question the extent of Hong Kong’s autonomy.
The seizure of the airport is a step above the previous tactics of demonstrators, which involved occupying roads, shopping malls, and public parks.
The airport earned its alternative title from the island that it is located on, Chek Lap Kok. It opened in 1998 as a replacement to the former Kai Tak Airport, which had served the city of Hong Kong since 1925.
While construction on the airport began while Hong Kong was still a British territory, the opening came after the region had been returned to the Chinese.
The airport’s runway juts out into the sea from in between sweeping hills and skyscrapers that characterize the city’s skyline. The airport is conveniently located around 24 minutes from the center of the city, making Hong Kong more appealing to businesses looking to expand their operations to Asia and the Pacific.
The protests were both an embarrassment to local authorities as well as an indication that the rally was popular amongst others outside of pro-democracy activism, including airport employees and management.
Protesters have felt compelled to take more extreme action in response to reports of the excessive police force and brutality.
While the airport has been reopened as of Wednesday, many protesters have stressed that their efforts are far from over. Many wonder what the next steps will be for local authorities and the greater Chinese government.
Hong Kong International Airport is also the largest air cargo hub in the world, handling over 5 million tons of cargo and mail in 2018 alone. The airport protests weren’t the only thing to inhibit traffic to Hong Kong this week.
The Hong Kong protests have hampered travel to Asia as a whole since mid-June. In the first two weeks of demonstrations, starting June 16, bookings of flights to the region fell 9% year over year. The next two weeks saw bookings fall another 2.2%.
Over the next 27 days, there was a whopping 33.4% decline in bookings. This decline in travel stands in stark contrast to the first six and a half months of 2019, which saw travel up 6.6% year over year.
The recent protests have had the greatest impact on air traffic to the region and long-haul travel has been down 4.7% year over year since the protests began.