BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) said its daily service to and from Hong Kong would continue operation, after thousands of pro-democracy protestors flooded the city’s terminals on Monday and occupied the arrival halls, triggering a temporary shut down.
RB said Tuesday’s flight from Bandar Seri Begawan to Hong Kong had arrived safely, and the return flight to Brunei was expected to depart Hong Kong at 9pm.
However, hundreds of flights out of Hong Kong were cancelled Tuesday as protestors staged a fifth consecutive day of demonstrations at the airport, blocking passengers from reaching entrances to the departure area in both terminals.
Hong Kong airport authorities suspended all check-ins at 4.30pm Brunei time, but reversed a previous statement saying that all departing flights had been cancelled.
“Terminal operations at Hong Kong International Airport have been seriously disrupted, and all check-in processes have now been suspended,” a statement on the airport website said.
The airport authority did not clarify how many flights would be cancelled, but said it did not expect arriving flights to be affected.
Royal Brunei Airlines advised passengers to check the latest announcements at the Hong Kong International Airport’s website as well as Royal Brunei Airlines’ website for any changes.
‘We are fighting for the future of our home’
The decision came after thousands of protesters flooded the airport Tuesday and blocked passengers at departure halls, a day after a sit-in forced authorities to cancel all flights to and from the major international hub.
In both terminals, protesters blocked the entrances to the departure area, though several dozen passengers were able to push through.
“I support your cause… but I need to see my family,” a man shouted as protesters dressed in black surrounded him, preventing him from reaching the gates.
Some passengers said they had been told to check their bags in at Terminal 1 and then move to Terminal 2 to take-off, but when they arrived they found more protesters also blocking the way.
The demonstrators moved luggage trolleys to prevent passengers using an elevator or escalator leading down to the departure gates on the bottom floor of Terminal 2.
Then they formed a human chain, linking arm-in-arm to stop passengers from getting to the departures area.
“Sorry for the inconvenience, we are fighting for the future of our home,” read one protest banner.
Unrest continues to rock Hong Kong
The protests at the airport have raised the stakes in a 10-week old crisis that has seen millions of people take to Hong Kong’s streets in the biggest challenge to Chinese rule of the semi-autonomous city since its 1997 handover from Britain.
On Tuesday morning, the city’s Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, gave an at-times emotional press conference in which she warned of dangerous consequences if escalating violence was not curbed.
“Violence, no matter if it’s using violence or condoning violence, will push Hong Kong down a path of no return,” Lam said.
Lam ruled out making concessions to protestors as the demonstrations have become increasingly violent, with police using tear gas and rubber bullets, and protesters hurling bricks, bottles and sometimes petrol bombs.⠀
The demonstrations began in opposition to a now-suspended bill that would have allowed extraditions to China, but quickly evolved into a broader bid for democratic reform and greater autonomy from the mainland.
Authorities in Beijing said “terrorism” was emerging in the city, while in Hong Kong authorities demonstrated water cannon for use in crowd control.
Meanwhile, videos promoted by state media showed Chinese military and armoured vehicles appearing to gather in the southern city of Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong.
The UN’s rights chief on Tuesday voiced concern over police force used against protesters, and called for an impartial probe.
Several countries including Australia and Canada recommended travelers “exercise a high degree of caution in Hong Kong” due to civil unrest. Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s flagship airline, urged customers to postpone non-essential travel from Hong Kong.⠀
The Scoop contacted Brunei’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a travel advisory for Bruneian citizens, but they were unable to provide comment as of press time.