Protesters shut down Hong Kong airport as Chinese authorities begin massing armored vehicles (Update)

Protests against the Chinese government continue to escalate in Hong Kong. Monday, the city’s international airport was shut down after protesters showed up in large numbers. NPR reports the protesters may have selected the airport, in part, because they hoped police would be hesitant to get violent in front of international visitors:

Thousands of demonstrators, wearing black clothing and carrying posters denouncing the police, filled the arrival and departure halls of Hong Kong International Airport on Monday, prompting the cancellation of more than 100 flights at one of the world’s busiest transportation hubs…

Protesters accused the police of using aggressive tactics in an escalating attempt to suppress them — beating people and firing rubber bullets at close range. Police fired tear gas into an enclosed subway station, with the gas stagnating instead of dispersing. One woman was reportedly injured by a projectile that hit her eye — and she became the focal point on Monday for protesters, who carried signs on her behalf…

On Monday, some protesters at the airport said they hoped the highly visible location, with foreigners passing through, might offer some protection against potential police brutality.

Here’s what the airport looked like earlier:

And here’s the police behavior that has upset many of the protesters. It’s not clear what prompted this particular crackdown at a metro station but you can see police are shooting at people at point-blank range with something (paintballs? pepper balls?) and are also clubbing people already on the ground with batons. This clip shows the same incident from a couple of different camera angles:

When Ed wrote about Hong Kong last week he noted that there were some worrisome signs China seemed to be gearing itself up for a major crackdown on the protests, which are now entering their 10th week. Monday, China’s language escalated when it compared the protesters to terrorists. From Fox News:

China on Monday used the strongest language yet to vilify the participants, with the Cabinet’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office in Beijing saying the protests are “beginning to show the sprouts of terrorism” and constitute an “existential threat” to the population of Hong Kong.

“One must take resolute action toward this violent criminality, showing no leniency or mercy,” said a statement from spokesperson Yang Guang. “Hong Kong has reached an inflection point where all those who are concerned about Hong Kong’s future must say ‘no,’ to lawbreakers and ‘no’ to those engaged in violence.”

Earlier Monday, Hong Kong police showed off water cannons that could be deployed in the case of future demonstrations, a development which Amnesty International has warned could lead to serious injuries if the canons are misused within the densely-populated city’s confined spaces.

But it’s not just water cannons that are waiting in the wings. A state-controlled news outlet reported that armored vehicles have been assembling in Shenzhen, not far from Hong Kong and released this video:

It’s pretty hard to miss the signals China is sending: Back down or Tiananmen 2.0 is coming to your neighborhood.

Senate Majority Leader McConnell tweeted a link this morning to a statement he issued last month. The statement reads in part, “The world is watching and wondering: If a government cannot respect the basic rights of people it claims as its own citizens, why on Earth would it be trusted to respect the rights and interests of its neighbors, its trading partners, or the companies that invest in its economy?” The world is watching and that may be the only thing that is keeping China from behaving like the brutal communist dictatorship it is.

Update: More video of the Chinese government’s staging of military vehicles.