Hong Kong stocks hit 7-month low; protests disrupt airport operations

* Hang Seng falls 2.1% to lowest since Jan 4

* Protesters sit in at airport, force flights to cancel

* Beijing says protest violence ‘sprouts of terrorism’

HONG KONG, Aug 13 (Reuters) - The Hong Kong stock market on Tuesday fell to its lowest level in over seven months, as escalating anti-government protests left the city’s airport in a gridlock on Monday. ** At the close of trade, the Hang Seng index was down 2.1% at 25,281.30 points, its lowest level since Jan. 4. The Hang Seng China Enterprises index fell 1.5%. ** The sub-index of the Hang Seng tracking energy shares and the IT sector both dipped 1.9%, the financial sector ended 2.1% lower and the property sector lost 2.3%. ** Hong Kong outpaced losses in Asia. Around the region, MSCI’s Asia ex-Japan stock index was weaker by 1.3%, while Japan’s Nikkei index closed down 1.1%. China’s main Shanghai Composite index closed down 0.6%, while the blue-chip CSI300 index ended down 0.9%. ** Protesters sat in at the Hong Kong airport on Monday, forcing mass flight cancellations in the afternoon. Also on Monday, Beijing condemned violence in the protests which it said had begun to show “sprouts of terrorism”. ** Hong Kong’s Airport Authority said on Tuesday it was working with its partners to restore normal operations as soon as possible but noted that more protests are planned. ** Shares of Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific Airways fell further on Tuesday, having reached a 10-year low this week. China’s aviation regulator demanded on Friday that the airline suspend personnel who engaged in or supported illegal protests from staffing flights into its airspace. ** Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday the city’s recovery from protests that have swept the Asian financial hub could take a long time and that she would be responsible for rebuilding its economy “after the violence eases”. ** Shares in Shenzhen Airport Co Ltd surged over 10% to their highest since April 4. The company could benefit from losses in passenger flow in the nearby Hong Kong airport, Citic Securities’ analysts noted in a report. ** The top gainer on the Hang Seng was Sunny Optical Technology Group Co Ltd, which gained 0.5%, while the biggest loser was Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd, which fell 5.8%. ** About 1.98 billion Hang Seng index shares were traded. The volume traded in the previous trading session was 1.20 billion. ** At close, China’s A-shares were trading at a premium of 31.60% over Hong Kong-listed H-shares. (Reporting by Noah Sin; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)