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Hong Kong police ramp up security ahead of airport ‘stress test’

After a night of violent clashes between police and anti-government protesters in multiple districts of Hong Kong, police were preparing on Sunday afternoon for further demonstrations being billed as an "airport stress test." 

After a night of violent clashes between police and anti-government protesters in multiple districts of Hong Kong, police were preparing on Sunday afternoon for further demonstrations being billed as an “airport stress test.”

Hong Kong International Airport became a hotspot for demonstrations last month when protesters disrupted departure schedules by staging a sit-in, garnering international attention.

Police were stationed at planned protest sites on Sunday including the airport, the surrounding Chek Lap Kok area, Tsing Yi station, Hong Kong station and the headquarters of local airline Cathay Pacific, which received heavy criticism after firing employees who had participated in the protests.

Local broadcaster RTHK reported heavy police presence on multiple inbound roads near Chek Lap Kok, including a water cannon vehicle.

Police began performing security checks in the morning at bus stops and on buses en route to the Hong Kong airport, checking identification cards and asking passengers to open their bags.

A bus passenger named Jane who works at the airport said that she did not mind having her bag and her ID checked, adding that she was “very upset” about the direction the protests have taken.

“They don’t have the right to stop people from travelling,” she said of the sit-ins, which have resulted in cancelled flights and financial losses for airlines.

After protests disrupted operations last month, the Airport Authority obtained a High Court order that “restrains persons from unlawfully and wilfully obstructing or interfering with the proper use of Hong Kong International Airport.”

Under the order’s “access control plan,” only ticketed passengers and airport staff are allowed entry into terminals.

As of 3 pm (0700 GMT), all airport operations appeared to be running smoothly as primary access points were heavily controlled by police.

Protests were also taking place elsewhere in Hong Kong, including one gathering in Sha Tin Plaza, where musicians played for the crowd of several hundred people chanting “freedom for Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong has seen a wave of anti-government protests since June. They began over a controversial bill that would have allowed extraditions to China. The legislation has since been withdrawn, but protesters’ demands have grown to include an independent inquiry into police violence and electoral reforms.

Hong Kong is a former British colony which returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. It was promised special rights and privileges until 2047 under the “one country, two systems” agreement, but many residents fear that the arrangement is increasingly under threat.

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