Hong Kong Protesters Descend on Airport, With Plans to Stay for Days

on Aug11
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HONG KONG — Thousands of black-clad antigovernment protesters demonstrated at Hong Kong’s international airport on Friday, taking aim at both a global transit hub and the city’s closely guarded reputation for order and efficiency.

The protest in the airport’s arrivals hall, which is planned to last through Sunday, came as Hong Kong reeled from its worst political crisis since Britain handed the former colony back to China in 1997, and less than a week after protests and a general strike caused chaos in the city and led to 148 arrests.

The airport protest began in the early afternoon, as demonstrators in black T-shirts and face masks nearly filled the cavernous arrivals hall, chanting “Hong Kongers, keep going,” a rallying cry for the two-month-old protest movement.

“You’ve arrived in a broken, torn-apart city, not the one you have once pictured,” read a pamphlet that protesters offered to arriving travelers. “Yet for this Hong Kong, we fight. We shall never surrender.”

As of Friday night, the demonstration remained peaceful, and there had been no reports of arrests or disruptions of flights. Protesters were careful to leave a path clear for travelers, some of whom recorded the demonstration on their phones or helped themselves to pamphlets.

The airline in an internal system also changed the designation of employees holding Hong Kong passports from “Hong Kong SAR” to “China SAR,” according to three employees who checked the system and screenshots of the system provided by one of them. (“SAR” stands for special administrative region.)

The system tracks travel visas for the crew, according to the employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the issue. The sudden change, seeming to emphasize that Hong Kong is part of China, alarmed some airline employees.

Cathay Pacific said it had received the directive from the aviation authority and was “studying it very carefully.”

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, appeared at a news briefing on Friday evening, flanked by her finance secretary and leaders of the local business community. They appeared to be responding to an earlier call from the Chinese government to stand behind her and oppose violence in the semiautonomous region.

In her remarks, Mrs. Lam called for all sectors of Hong Kong society to overcome their differences, emphasizing the economic harm she said the protests had inflicted on the economy. But she declined to offer new concessions to the protest movement.

“I don’t think we should just make concessions in order to silence the violent protesters,” she said.

Alison Lee, 29, one of the protesters at the airport, said Mrs. Lam’s remarks had left her cold.

“I think that Carrie Lam is just repeating what she said before,” Ms. Lee said. “She has provided no solutions and no plans to solve the current problems. This is not going to just go away because she wants it to.”

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