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Hong Kong Protestors Force Flight Cancellations


Hong Kong has been brought to a virtual standstill again. Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators flooded the international airport there, and officials suspended all flights. The protests have been going on now for 10 weeks straight. No sign that either the demonstrators or the government in Hong Kong is ready to back down. NPR's Anthony Kuhn joins us now from the airport in Hong Kong.

Anthony, just tell us what you're seeing. What's the situation right now?

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: I'm sitting - I'm talking to you from the arrivals section, and the whole airport is totally occupied by black-clad young protesters. There are also a lot of foreign tourists who are stuck here. About mid-afternoon, we were told that all flights had been cancelled and that there were 5,000 demonstrators in the airport. Now the boards are showing that those flights are delayed. So not all of them are canceled. After that initial announcement, a lot of people were afraid that the police were going to come in here with tear gas and clear them out. So a lot of people have left.

Now a lot of people have come back. There's still a lot of protesters. Some people just got off work and came here. And the place is festooned with posters and slogans and banners. And also, interestingly, there's not a policeman in sight at this point.

MARTIN: Not a policeman in sight.

KUHN: So the protests roll on.

MARTIN: Yeah. And this comes after yet another violent weekend - protests turning aggressive, clashes with police and accusations of police brutality, right? What can you tell us?

KUHN: Yeah. And that's the reason a lot of people came to the airport, to voice their anger. There were clashes in at least four major areas of the city over the weekend. And in those protests, protesters barricaded streets. They hurled Molotov cocktails at police. Riot police charged and beat people with batons. They used tear gas. There was a lot of anger at undercover cops, who seemed to be stirring things up in order just to make arrests.

There was tear gas fired into subway stations, where there was no way for the gas to escape. There were some serious injuries, probably scores of injuries, according to reports, but no fatalities. But people, as I said, are really angry, and they came to the airport to voice their opinions.

MARTIN: What is the primary demand now, Anthony? In the seconds we have remaining, this all started because of a controversial extradition bill. The government in Hong Kong put that aside. That hasn't appeased protesters. What do they want?

KUHN: Yeah. (Inaudible) bill and the chief executive of Hong Kong resigning and being democratically replaced, now basically they want accountability for the police abuses and government abuses that they feel have happened.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's Anthony Kuhn on the ground at the Hong Kong International Airport. Thanks, Anthony.

KUHN: You're welcome, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.