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Protesters severely crippled operations at Hong Kong's international airport for a second day Tuesday, forcing authorities to cancel all remaining flights out of the city after demonstrators took over the terminals as part of their push for democratic reforms.

After a brief respite early Tuesday during which flights were able to take off and land, the airport authority announced check-in services for departing flights were suspended as of 4:30 p.m. Other departing flights that had completed the process would continue to operate.

It said it did not expect arriving flights to be affected, though dozens of arriving flights were already cancelled. The authority advised the public not to come to the airport, one of the world's busiest transport hubs.

On Monday more than 200 flights were canceled and the airport was effectively shut down with no flights taking off or landing.

Passengers have been forced to seek accommodation in the city while airlines struggle to find other ways to get them to their destinations.

The airport protests and their disruption are an escalation of a summer of demonstrations aimed at what many Hong Kong residents see as an increasing erosion of the freedoms they were promised in 1997 when Communist Party-ruled mainland China took over what had been a British colony.

Those doubts are fueling the protests, which build on a previous opposition movement that shut down much of the city for seven weeks in 2014 that eventually fizzled out and whose leaders have been imprisoned.

The central government in Beijing ominously characterized the current protest movement as something approaching "terrorism" that posed an "existential threat" to the local citizenry.

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Meanwhile, paramilitary police were assembling across the border in the city of Shenzhen for exercises in what some saw as a threat to increase force brought against the mostly young protesters who have turned out in their thousands over the past 10 weeks.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the ongoing instability, chaos and violence have placed the city on a "path of no return."

The demonstrators have shown no sign of letting up on their campaign to force Lam's administration to respond to their demands, including that she step down and entirely scrap legislation that could have seen criminal suspects sent to mainland China to face torture and unfair or politically charged trials.

While Beijing tends to define terrorism broadly, extending it especially to nonviolent movements opposing government policies in minority regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang, the government's usage of the term in relation to Hong Kong raised the prospect of greater violence and the possible suspension of legal rights for those detained.

Demonstrators have in recent days focused on their demand for an independent inquiry into what they call the police's abuse of power and negligence. That followed reports and circulating video footage of violent arrests and injuries sustained by protesters.

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Amanda St. Amand • 314-340-8201

@mandystlpd on Twitter

astamand@post-dispatch.com

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