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Check-in operations suspended at HK airport

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Flights disrupted for second day as leader Carrie Lam says the territory is in a state of 'panic and chaos'

HONG KONG Flights leaving Hong Kong were disrupted for a second day yesterday, plunging the city deeper into turmoil.

Ten weeks of increasingly violent protests have roiled the Asian financial hub as thousands chafe at a perceived erosion of freedoms and autonomy under Chinese rule.

Check-in operations were suspended at 4.30pm yesterday, a day after an unprecedented airport shutdown, as thousands of black-clad protesters jammed the terminal, chanting, singing and waving banners.

"Take a minute to look at our city, our home," Chief Executive Carrie Lam said, her voice cracking.

"Can we bear to push it into the abyss and see it smashed to pieces?"

The protests began as opposition to a now-suspended bill that would have allowed suspects' extradition to mainland China, but have swelled into wider calls for democracy.

"My responsibility goes beyond this particular range of protest," she said, adding that violence had pushed the territory into a state of "panic and chaos".

"I, as the Chief Executive, will be responsible to rebuild the Hong Kong economy, to engage as widely as possible, listen as attentively as possible to my people's grievances and try to help Hong Kong to move on."

As she spoke, the benchmark Hang Seng index hit a seven-month low.

It shed more than 2 per cent, dragging down markets across Asia.

Airport authorities suspended check-in operations as the fifth day of a sit-in by protesters grew more heated.

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

Some passengers challenged protesters over the delays as tempers began to fray.

"I don't mind what they (the protesters) do but they made us five hours delayed," said Mr Wing Au-yeung, 50, who had stopped off in the city to collect his aged mother before travelling to South Korea with his family.

"They can do what they want but it should not affect other people."

In a related development, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet is calling for "prompt, independent, impartial investigation" into alleged excessive force by police against the protesters, her spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.

US Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell warned China on Monday that any violent crackdown on protests in Hong Kong would be "completely unacceptable", while Trump administration officials urged all sides to refrain from violence.

"The people of Hong Kong are bravely standing up to the Chinese Communist Party as Beijing tries to encroach on their autonomy and freedom," Mr McConnell tweeted.

"Any violent crackdown would be completely unacceptable." - REUTERS, AFP