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China slams Hong Kong violence as 'terrorism'; airport cancels all flight operations due to protests

Hong Kong police fire tear gas during demonstration in the district of Yuen Long in Hong Kong. Photograph:( AFP )

Agencies New Delhi, Delhi, India Aug 12, 2019, 02.14 PM (IST)

China on Monday slammed violent protesters in Hong Kong who had thrown petrol bombs at police officers and linked them to "terrorism", as Beijing ramps up its rhetoric against pro-democracy protests in the financial hub.

"Hong Kong's radical demonstrators have repeatedly used extremely dangerous tools to attack police officers, which already constitutes a serious violent crime, and also shows the first signs of terrorism emerging," said Yang Guang, spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council.

"This wantonly tramples on Hong Kong's rule of law and social order," he said at a press briefing in Beijing.

Yang's remarks came a day after thousands of pro-democracy protesters defied warnings from authorities to hit the streets for the 10th weekend in a row.

Hong Kong police fired volleys of tear gas Sunday at protestors after denying their requests for permits to stage a march.

But Yang focused on the violent behavior of a "tiny minority", which he condemned as "a serious challenge to Hong Kong's prosperity and stability."

The two-month crisis, which was triggered by opposition to a planned extradition law, has morphed into a wider movement for democratic reform and a halt to eroding freedoms.

It is the biggest threat to Beijing's rule of the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city since its handover from Britain in 1997 -- and has drawn repeated criticism but no forceful actions yet from the central Chinese government.

Watch: Anti-government protest in Hong Kong

Meanwhile, Hong Kong airport authorities cancelled all remaining departing and arriving flights after thousands of protesters entered the arrivals hall to stage a demonstration.

"Other than the departure flights that have completed the check-in process and the arrival flights that are already heading to Hong Kong, all other flights have been cancelled for the rest of today," the airport authority said in a statement.

The decision came after thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators flooded into the airport holding signs reading "Hong Kong is not safe" and "Shame on police".

"Airport operations at Hong Kong International Airport have been seriously disrupted as a result of the public assembly at the airport today," the statement said.

It warned that traffic to the airport was "very congested" and the facility's car parks were completely full.

"Members of the public are advised not to come to the airport."

Earlier in the day, Hong Kong Police demonstrated water cannon trucks in warning to the protestors after tear gas and rubber bullets failed to stop more than two months of rallies.

The brand-new vehicles, complete with real-time surveillance cameras and multiple spray nozzles, were wheeled out after police clashed with demonstrators at nearly a dozen locations on Sunday.

They fired tear gas on shopping streets and in subway stations, with protesters hurling bricks and spraying riot police with fire extinguishers and water hoses.

A government official said 45 people were injured in the clashes, including two who were in serious condition. 

Police also arrested protesters across the city, with activists claiming plainclothes officers dressed in the movement's signature black and infiltrated their ranks to detain demonstrators.

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Meanwhile, Hong Kong airport authorities cancelled all remaining departing and arriving flights after thousands of protesters entered the arrivals hall to stage a demonstration.