Why are Hong Kong protesters at the airport?

Posted at 5:03 PM, Aug 13, 2019

Hong Kong's international airport -- one of the busiest in Asia -- had emerged as a key protest target before today's mass gathering, as anti-government demonstrators looked to take their message directly to the international community.

At the airport over the weekend, leaflets in Chinese, English, French, Korean, Japanese and other languages were handed out to arriving international visitors, explaining the causes of the unrest -- as protesters see it -- and the demands of the opposition movement.

Showcasing the slick design that has characterized the protests , other pamphlets and posters also advertised planned demonstrations as "new tourist spots," and advised tourists what to do if they were caught in the protests during their visit.

On Monday, almost 200 flights were canceled to and from Hong Kong as thousands of pro-democracy protesters shut down the airport following violent clashes with police over the weekend.

The economy takes a hit: While mainland China is Hong Kong's most important trading partner, the city is an international business and financial hub, and the economy is already showing signs of hurting as a result of the protests.

Businesses in Hong Kong, both international and local, have also faced pressure and accusations of acting in concert or sympathizing with the protesters. Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong's flagship carrier and a major local employer, has been ordered by Chinese aviation authorities to ban staff who take part in protests from traveling to China.

The PR battle: By appealing to the international community, and making sure it is their message that most foreigners are seeing, protesters have shown themselves adept at public relations. Meanwhile despite carrying out regular press briefings, the Hong Kong government has at times appeared at a loss as to how to engage with residents and protesters.