Hong Kong defends police after protests close airport

Associated Press | Kin Cheung

Stranded travelers sit in the check-in counters at the Hong Kong International Airport, Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. One of the world's busiest airports canceled all flights after thousands of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters crowded into the main terminal Monday afternoon.

HONG KONG -- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam defended law enforcement actions Tuesday after protesters prompted an airport shutdown with calls to investigate alleged police brutality.

At one of the world's busiest airports, airlines were checking in passengers for new flights and for those unable to leave Monday when 200 flights were canceled because thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators had packed into the airport's main terminal.

Protesters have shown no sign of letting up on their campaign to force Lam's administration to respond to their demands. No new violence was reported, although the city is on edge after more than two months of near-daily and increasingly bloody confrontations between protesters and police.

Demonstrators have called for an independent inquiry into what they call the police's abuse of power and negligence. Some protesters thrown bricks, eggs and flaming objects at police stations.

Lam told reporters that dialogue would only begin when the violence stopped. She reiterated her support for the police and said they have had to make on-the-spot decisions under difficult circumstances, using "the lowest level of force."

"After the violence has been stopped, and the chaotic situation that we are seeing could subside," Lam said, "I as the chief executive will be responsible to rebuild Hong Kong's economy ... to help Hong Kong to move on."

She did not elaborate on what steps her government will take toward reconciliation.

Software engineer Joydeep Chakravarti, whose connecting flight to San Francisco was canceled late Monday, expressed frustration that he was told to leave the airport when he wanted to stay inside the terminal.

"I don't know what's out there, so I don't want to leave. I didn't make any plans for Hong Kong," said Chakravarti.

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