Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Tuesday that it could take a long time for the city to recover from riots that swept the Asian financial hub and that it would be accountable for rebuilding its economy “after the easing of violence.”
Her remarks accompanied severe developments over the previous week in the increasing crisis. Beijing said the protests had started showing “terrorism sprouts” on Monday, and the airport of the city was closed in an unprecedented move that compelled hundreds of cancelations of flights.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dropped by more than 1 percent to its smallest level since Jan. 4 as she spoke to journalists, her voice cracking emotionally at one stage. Shortly afterwards, the index fell by about 1.5 percent.
She said that protesters ‘ violence had pushed Hong Kong into “a panic and chaos state.”
The progressively violent protests have plunged the Chinese-ruled land into its most severe crisis in decades, posing one of its greatest problems to Chinese leader Xi Jinping since he went to power in 2012.
The protests started as an opposition to a now-suspended bill that would have permitted extradition to mainland China for those facing criminal charges but have become wider demands for democracy.
Demonstrators claim they are fighting against the erosion of the agreement “one country, two systems” that enshrined some autonomy for Hong Kong when China took it back from Britain in 1997.
They also claim police have been using excessive force, firing nearby tear gas and bean bag pellets, and calling for an autonomous crisis investigation.
The demonstrators called for resignation from Lam.
Hong Kong’s airport reopened on Tuesday with some flight rebounds, but hundreds of others have still been cancelled, with airlines such as Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar Pacific and Malaysian Airlines recommended rescheduling passengers.
The airport was the recent protest center that started two months earlier.
Its administrator blamed demonstrators for stopping flights on Monday, but the precise closure trigger was not apparent as protesters occupying the arrivals room have been peaceful for the previous five days.
Shortly after midnight, most demonstrators left the airport, with around 50 demonstrators still standing there on Tuesday morning.
Hong Kong Airport is passenger traffic’s eighth busiest airport, handling 73 million passengers a year.
Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific stated on its website that on Tuesday it had canceled more than 200 flights to and from the airport and that it would only run a restricted amount of passenger connection flights.
Cathay shares, which dropped to a 10-year low on Monday, continued their fall on Tuesday and dropped in morning trading by more than 4.5 percent.
The firm is caught in crosswinds between Beijing and pro-democracy organizations in Hong Kong following a demand from the Chinese Civil Aviation Regulator to suspend staff involved in or endorsed demonstrations from staffing flights into its airspace.