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Air freight operations have not been significantly impacted by the recent protests at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG).

All departures after 6pm were cancelled on Monday after the airport was occupied by anti-government protesters, as part of wider civil unrest in response to a controversial extradition bill. Check-in was again suspended at around 4.30pm on Tuesday.

However, according to Air Cargo World, only seven cargo flights were cancelled on Monday, and five on Tuesday. The majority of freighters still departed and continued to land as scheduled.

According to Sunny Ho, executive director of the Hong Kong Shippers’ Council, cargo on passenger flights could easily be redistributed to freighters with spare capacity.

Air freight not heavily impacted by Hong Kong airport closure
Credit: Brayden Law

The protests had remained peaceful until Tuesday, when passengers were blocked from flights and protestors clashed with riot police. Protestors beat and physically restrained a man they suspected of being an undercover police officer, and a journalist for the Chinese state media publication The Global Times.

On Wednesday the airport obtained a temporary injunction banning protestors from entering certain areas, permitting access only to employees and those with valid boarding passes.

Protestors who had been co-ordinating on the Telegram app voted to rest for the day and apologise to travellers, which they did with online messaging that cited their desperation and asked for understanding, while Chinese officials—backed by the vehemently pro-government state media—have characterised their conduct as “close to terrorism”.

Last week, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) instructed Hong Kong airliner Cathay Pacific to ban all staff who took part in “illegal protests, violence and other radical activities” from operating flights to or from China.

Sources: Air Cargo World, Al Jazeera, BBC News

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