Carrie Lam, chief executive of China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), called for calm and warned that it will take a long time for Hong Kong to recover as the city endured weeks-long violent protests.
"Hong Kong's society has become insecure, unstable and violent. Violence, especially serious violence, will push Hong Kong to a path of no return. It will put Hong Kong society in a very anxious, dangerous situation," Lam said.
"The situation in Hong Kong in the past week has made me very worried that we have reached this dangerous situation," she added.
The chief executive said that a large group of protesters occupied passenger terminals at Hong Kong International Airport, forcing authorities to halt airport operations and cancel hundreds of flights on Monday and thousands of passengers have been stranded at one of the busiest airports in the world.
She stressed that Hong Kong is seriously wounded and "It will take a long time to recover."
"The normal life of the public was severely disturbed and these lawbreaking activites in the name of freedom were damaging the rule of law," Lam said
The rule of law is a core value of Hong Kong society, she said, noting that if it's violated, many other areas of society also will be affected.
"I, as chief executive, will be responsible to rebuild Hong Kong's economy and to engage as widely as possible, to listen as attentively as possible so people's grievances can be (addressed)," Lam said.
She added that there is absolutely no good in antagonizing the police and the citizens, noting that some protesters circulated unverified and baseless pictures and information, and viciously targeted legal authorities, police officers and even their families.
The police faced "extremely difficult circumstances" and were bound by "rigid and stringent guidelines on the appropriate use of force," Lam told reporters.
"Take a minute to think, look at our city, our home, do you all really want to see it pushed into an abyss?" Lam added.
As of 8 a.m. Tuesday, 160 outbound and 150 inbound flights scheduled to land or depart from Hong Kong International Airport between midnight Monday evening and 11:55 p.m. Tuesday were canceled. The cancellations, which followed a mass sit-in on Monday, left passengers stranded at the airport.