HONG KONG -- Hong Kong's international airport suspended all check-ins for the second day in a row Tuesday as thousands of protesters blocked passengers and occupied terminals in a mass demonstration.
More than 300 flights had already been canceled Tuesday following Monday's airport shutdown due to a similar protest.
Hong Kong is in its 10th week of public unrest. What started as a peaceful movement against an extradition bill perceived to threaten Hong Kong's rule of law has become a decentralized series of near-daily confrontations between protesters and police. More than 700 protesters have been arrested so far.
The international airport, one of Asia's top transportation hubs and a symbol of Hong Kong's status as a financial center, has been a focal site for protesters, who've been trying to raise awareness of their fight for democratic reforms and against alleged police brutality.
But this time, protesters shifted from the peaceful tactics they'd been using for five days in a row, escalating from chanting and handing out fliers to physically obstructing passengers from accessing their flights. Their methods may have antagonized the international visitors they were trying to win over, just as Beijing escalates a propaganda war aimed at portraying the protesters as "radicals" under foreign influence and deserving of crackdown.
Angry scuffles broke out in the late afternoon as hundreds of protesters surrounded two security gates in one of the terminals, sitting down so that no travelers could access the security check and their boarding gates.
Shouting matches broke out as protesters refused to let passengers by, standing in their way, blocking escalators with airport trolleys and disabling an elevator. At one point, some protesters trapped passengers -- including families with small children -- in a poorly ventilated emergency passageway.
Passengers eventually burst through the passageway to make a run for a train to the boarding gates, some of them crying in distress.
Jasmine, 25, a traveler from Britain who didn't give her last name, said she had been "sympathetic" with the protesters but disagreed with their airport occupation.
"I'm getting quite scared, to be honest," she said. "You cannot just block the whole airport. This is the fifth day they're doing this, all the poor tourists have to stay here, and the airlines are not helping at all."