Hong Kong braced on Thursday for more mass demonstrations through the weekend, with the weeks-long crisis escalating after pro-democracy protests forced the cancellation of nearly 1,000 flights this week and world leaders urging calm.
China reiterated on Wednesday that Hong Kong’s protest resembled terrorism and more street clashes followed ugly and chaotic scenes at the airport two days ago when protesters set upon two men they suspected of being government sympathizers.
Police and protesters faced off again on the streets of the financial hub overnight, with riot officers quickly firing tear gas as their response to demonstrators hardens.
Ten weeks of increasingly violent confrontations between police and protesters have plunged Hong Kong into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
The protests represent one of the biggest populist challenges for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012 and show no immediate signs of abating.
U.S. President Donald Trump tied a trade agreement with China to a humane resolution of the protests that have disrupted the city for the past 10 weeks, even suggesting that he was willing to meet Xi to discuss the crisis.
“I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi (Jinping) wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?” Trump said on Twitter.
The U.S. State Department said earlier it was deeply concerned about reports that Chinese police forces were gathering near the border with Hong Kong and urged the city’s government to respect freedom of speech.
It also issued a travel advisory urging citizens to exercise caution when visiting Hong Kong. China has frequently warned against what it regards as outside interference in an internal issue.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called on Hong Kong authorities on Wednesday to renew talks with protesters to find a peaceful solution, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged China to handle the protests with tact.