Affected passengers at the Hong Kong International Airport queue for connecting transit flights Tuesday morning, after hundreds of flights were canceled due to an unauthorized sit-in staged by radical protesters, Aug 13, 2019. [Photo/chinadaily.com.cn]

HONG KONG – Protesters created chaos at the Hong Kong International Airport for the second day on Tuesday, causing cancellations of most outbound flights at one of the busiest airports in the world.

All check-in services for departure flights were suspended starting at 4:30 pm, the Airport Authority Hong Kong said in a statement after protesters occupied the airport terminal and prevented passengers from departing.

Footage aired by a local broadcaster showed some protesters grab passengers’ arms, preventing them from passing through checkpoints.

As of 3 pm, 188 arriving and 182 departing flights scheduled on Tuesday had been canceled due to the protests, according to the airport authority.

It was the second day of chaos at the airport caused by protests, leaving many stranded passengers visibly annoyed.

“Unfortunately with the chaos, we are stuck here in the airport,” said a Filipino passenger named Bennet. “No food and no drinks at all. Most of the restaurants are closed.”

A passenger from the Chinese mainland said she considered flying from Shenzhen instead. “I don’t know when this will end,” she said.

“They (protesters) are damaging Hong Kong’s business environment and image,” said the passenger surnamed Gao. “I love Hong Kong, but I feel sorry for those young people who have been incited and used.”

A heavy price

Frank Chan Fan, secretary for transport and housing of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government, said paralyzing the airport will make Hong Kong “pay a heavy price.”

“Amid fierce regional competition, it is very easy to destroy years of achievements the airport has accomplished, but rebuilding them would be very hard,” Chan said.

In 2018, the Hong Kong airport handled an average of 200,000 travelers each day, while trade via air accounted for nearly half of Hong Kong’s total trade volume.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, seven labor unions in the aviation industry of Hong Kong condemned the unpermitted demonstrations that have stained the international reputation of Hong Kong.

The unions urged the protesters to stop all unlawful demonstrations and refrain from “gambling at the expense of Hong Kong’s economic pillar.”

On Tuesday, HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the most urgent task now is to stop violence and safeguard the rule of law to prevent Hong Kong from sinking into “an abyss where it will be smashed to pieces.”

Lam said some people, in the name of freedom or justice, have been committing vandalism and damaging the rule of law, throwing Hong Kong into a state of panic.

If violence persists, it will take a long time to restore the openness, freedom, inclusiveness and economic stability in Hong Kong, and the stable lives of seven million residents can not continue, Lam said.