HONG KONG (Dispatches) — Protesters severely crippled operations at Hong Kong’s international airport for a second day Tuesday, forcing authorities to cancel all remaining flights out of the city after demonstrators took over the terminals as part of ongoing riots.
On Monday, more than 200 flights were canceled and the airport was effectively shut down with no flights taking off or landing.
Passengers have been forced to seek accommodation in the city while airlines struggle to find other ways to get them to their destinations.
China this week condemned some protesters for using dangerous tools to attack police, calling the clashes "sprouts of terrorism”.
Paramilitary police were assembling across the border in the city of Shenzhen for exercises.
Police have arrested more than 700 rioters since early June and say they have infiltrated the ranks of the demonstrators.
The United Nations’ top human rights official condemned violence surrounding the riots and called on the authorities and protesters to settle their dispute peacefully.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the instability, chaos and violence have placed the city on a "path of no return.”
Some rioters have thrown bricks, eggs and flaming objects at police stations. Police say several officers have suffered burns, bruises and eye damage inflicted by protesters.
Lam told reporters Tuesday that dialogue would only begin when the violence stopped. She reiterated her support for the police and said they have had to make on-the-spot decisions under difficult circumstances, using "the lowest level of force.”
"After the violence has been stopped, and the chaotic situation that we are seeing could subside,” Lam said. "I as the chief executive will be responsible to rebuild Hong Kong’s economy ... to help Hong Kong to move on.”
After two months, the protests have become increasingly divisive and prompted clashes across the city.
The airport shutdown added to what authorities say is already a major blow to the financial hub’s crucial tourism industry.
Kerry Dickinson, a traveler from South Africa, said she had trouble getting her luggage Tuesday morning. "I don’t think I will ever fly to Hong Kong again,” she said.
Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways told employees in a memo that the carrier has a "zero tolerance” for employees joining "illegal protests” and warned violators could be fired.