Hong Kong International Airport came to crippling halt on Monday with thousands of anti-government protesters occupying the airport's main terminals.

Authorities said operations have "been seriously disrupted" and canceled all flights in and out of the major international hub. Flights are expected to resume at 6 a.m. Tuesday, local time.

Since the weekend, demonstrators have flooded the airport, calling attention to their enduring grievances over the government's relationship with Beijing. The protests, which first broke out in June, stemmed from opposition to legislation that would have permitted extraditions to mainland China. The law was suspended but not fully withdrawn — a distinction that continues to fuel unrest.

The paralysis of Hong Kong's airport, which handled nearly 75 million people in 2018, affected thousands of travelers and disrupted travel worldwide. Cathay Pacific, the main airline of Hong Kong, urged passengers to postpone all non-essential flights and advised travelers not to proceed to the airport.

Demonstrators camped out throughout the terminal and expressed their objections to China's increasing control over the city, which has enjoyed relative autonomy under the "one country, two systems" governing framework established after the Hong Kong handover in 1997.

The protesters also adorned the wall with art and "Free Hong Kong" signs. "Sorry for the inconvenience! We have no choice," one poster read.

"Those at the scene should leave immediately, or as soon as possible, otherwise there will be risks they have to face," John Lee, Hong Kong's Secretary for Security, told reporters on Monday.

In recent days, the situation in Hong Kong significantly escalated with violent clashing breaking out between police and protesters. The police reported that protesters used bricks and petrol bombs to attack police stations, injuring multiple officers and damaging property.

"We are outraged by the violent protesters' behaviours which showed a total disregard of the law, posing a serious threat to the safety of police officers and other members of the public," the Hong Kong government said in a statement on Monday. "We appeal to all members of the public to say no to violence to help the community to restore order as soon as possible."

Protesters and activists, however, say that police provoked the violence and grossly abused their authority. Demonstrators also called for an independent investigation into police brutality.

"The Hong Kong police have once again demonstrated how not to police a protest," Man-Kei Tam, Amnesty International's director in Hong Kong, said in a statement. "Law enforcement officials must be able to carry out their duty to protect the public. However, violence directed at police does not give officers a green light to operate outside of international policing standards."

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities strongly condemned the weekend's violence, even saying that the protesters showed "the first signs of terrorism." China has, so far, not intervened directly to quell the unrest but has conducted large scale military drills in Shenzhen, a mainland city directly north of Hong Kong. The drills were even promoted on government-run social media accounts.

Last week, the Chinese government's Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office said no one should "mistake [China's] restraint for weakness" or underestimate the "immense strength of the central government."

China also addressed international criticism on Monday with a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry telling reporters that "Hong Kong is part of China, and its affairs are entirely China's internal affairs."

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