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Hong Kong airport protest shutdown tarnishes business image

Mass flight cancellations at Hong Kong’s airport disrupted one of the world’s busiest air-transport hubs on Monday, causing chaos for tourists and business travelers and playing havoc with global airlines’ flight schedules— a fresh escalation of the city’s protest movement that threatens the Asian city’s business-friendly image.

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Thousands of supporters of the largely leaderless pro-democracy protest movement descended on the terminal in an effort to get the message out to the world about their struggle and the harsh tactics used by police. Many wore eyepatches to show their solidarity with a female protester who reportedly was hit in the eye by a projectile fired by police.

The protests, which have seen both sides adopt increasingly extreme tactics, had until Monday been mostly confined to neighborhoods across the former British colony. But the airport protest, which caused the cancellation of more than 150 flights, was a rare case of the movement having a direct impact on business travel and tourism — mainstays of the Asian business center’s economy.

Analysts said it could make foreign investors think twice about setting up shop in Hong Kong, which has long prided itself as being Asia’s leading business city with convenient air links for executives traveling across the region.

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