HONG KONG: Hong Kong's airport remained on heightened security on Thursday (Aug 15), while the city braced itself for more mass protests through the weekend.
Protests at the airport forced the cancellation of nearly 1,000 flights this week, escalating from peaceful sit-ins at one of the world's busiest transport hubs to scenes of chaos and violence.
On Tuesday, protesters physically stopped travellers from boarding flights, battled riot police and assaulted two men they accused of being Chinese infiltrators.
Hong Kong's Airport Authority said heightened security would remain at the airport. It said earlier that an application for protests to be held in the terminal must be made in advance with a "Letter of No Objection" from police.
Ten weeks of increasingly violent confrontations between police and protesters have plunged Hong Kong into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
Research firm Capital Economics said the protests could push Hong Kong into a recession, with a growing risk of "an even worse outcome if a further escalation triggers capital flight". Hong Kong's property market would be hit hard, it said.
Business and citizens groups posted full-page advertisements in major newspapers to support the government and denounce the violence.
The Chinese Securities Association of Hong Kong said the city's international reputation would be seriously damaged if the violence and unrest were not stopped as soon as possible.
The head of Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment, Lui Che-woo, urged talks to rebuild a harmonious Hong Kong. The protests have affected the neighbouring Chinese territory of Macau, with some visitors avoiding the world's biggest gambling hub amid transport disruptions and safety concerns.
Police and protesters faced off again on the streets of the financial hub overnight, with riot officers quickly firing tear gas as their response to demonstrators toughens.
Several protests were planned across different districts of Hong Kong from Thursday, including a teachers rally, and one organised by animal lovers upset that their pets were being tear-gassed. The Civil Human Rights Front, which organised million-strong marches in June, set another protest for Sunday.
Protesters were expected to gather at a government building in the popular Wan Chai bar district later on Thursday. They are still pushing for authorities to listen to their five requests, which include the complete withdrawal of a now-suspended extradition Bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent for trial in mainland Chinese courts.
The protests grew out of opposition to the extradition Bill into wider concerns about the erosion of freedoms guaranteed under the "one country, two systems" formula put in place after the return to Chinese rule in 1997.
Their other demands include a halt to descriptions of the protests as "rioting", the dropping of charges against those arrested, an independent inquiry, and the resumption of political reform.
The protests represent one of the biggest populist challenges for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012 and show no immediate signs of abating.
US President Donald Trump tied a trade agreement with China to a humane resolution of the protests that have disrupted the city for the past 10 weeks, even suggesting that he was willing to meet Xi to discuss the crisis.
"I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi (Jinping) wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?" Trump said on Twitter.
The US State Department said earlier it was deeply concerned about reports that Chinese police forces were gathering near the border with Hong Kong and urged the city's government to respect freedom of speech.
It also issued a travel advisory urging citizens to exercise caution when visiting Hong Kong. China has frequently warned against what it regards as outside interference in an internal issue.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called on Hong Kong authorities on Wednesday to renew talks with protesters to find a peaceful solution, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged China to handle the protests with tact.