Protesters clashed with police at Hong Kong International Airport on Aug. 13 after flights were canceled for a second day as unrest over Beijing’s growing encroachment in the city intensified.
Thousands of demonstrators engulfed the airport terminal for a fifth straight day in opposition to police brutality during protests over the weekend that saw Hong Kong police firing tear gas into a subway station, shooting rubber bullets at protesters at close range, and a female medic hospitalized after being shot in the eye with a pellet round.
Scuffles broke out in the evening after the police were called to escort an injured man being held by protesters to hospital.
The protesters had accused the man to be an undercover police officer, amid rising suspicions that police had disguised themselves as protesters to make arrests during weekend protests. At an earlier press conference, deputy commissioner Tang Ping-keung tacitly admitted that “police officers have pretended to be different types of people” depending on their needs.
Medics later bundled the man onto a stretcher and forced their way through the crowd to an ambulance.
Protesters flashed laser pens at the police officers who returned to their police car after the paramedics carried the traveler away. At least four protester was arrested for assaulting the police, according to HK01, a local media outlet. Some police officers deployed pepper spray at protesters while clearing off blockades that protesters set up around the car. An officer also pulled out his gun multiple times and aimed it toward protesters who blocked his way.
That same evening, protesters also surrounded and detained another male, accusing him of being a fake journalist. They discovered a blue “I Love Police” T-shirt in his belongings and proceeded to zip-tie him. The shirt was identical to the ones that some pro-Beijing protesters have worn at previous rallies in support of police.
Hours later, Hu Xijin, editor of China’s state-run hawkish newspaper Global Times, said via Twitter that the detained man was a reporter at the publication.
The situation eased after a few hours as the crowds thinned out. According to local media, an injunction was issued by a local court late on Aug. 13 to clear the airport of protesters.
For the second day in a row, the airport was ground to a halt due to thousands of protesters taking over the terminals to protest the government’s response to the extradition bill crisis. Some flights resumed on Tuesday morning, but by the end of the day, over 300 flights from 33 airlines were canceled, with no flights taking off or landing starting from the afternoon, effectively shutting down one of the world’s busiest transport hubs.
Throughout the day, they had been chanting “an eye for an eye”—referring to the woman injured in the right eye after being hit by a bean-bag bullet during clashes between police and protesters this weekend. Shouts of “sorry” were also heard from the crowd from time to time as protesters apologized for inconveniencing tourists.
Wearing their signature black shirts and many covering their right eye with patches dyed red, the protesters explained to travelers that they are asking the government to hear their demands, including a full withdrawal of the extradition bill and an independent investigation into Hong Kong police’s use of force.
The bill, which proposed allowing mainland China to seek extradition of criminal suspects, drew widespread fears that it would allow the Chinese regime to further its interference in the city’s political and legal affairs.
The airport sit-ins have remained largely peaceful. A traveler from the United States whose flight was affected told Hong Kong radio broadcaster RTHK that he didn’t see why the airport authority had to shut down all remaining flights due to the protests, and questioned whether it was intentionally doing so to cast a negative light on the protesters.
“I don’t think there’s any security issue, so I don’t know if they were delayed because the [Airport Authority] took an order to cancel everybody to make the protesters look worse than they are,” the passenger said.
Despite the inconveniences, some travelers expressed understanding and support for the protesters. A female traveler surnamed Lau shouted “go Hongkongers” as she went through the departure hall. She said that she was not satisfied by the Hong Kong government’s responses. “Every time the Hong Kong Chief Executive [top official] gave a response, it only added fuel to the flame,” she told the Hong Kong bureau of The Epoch Times.
So far, roughly 2,100 people from 100 tourist groups worldwide have been affected by the mass flight disruptions, according to the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong.
Voices of Support
Western governments continue to shine a spotlight on the Hong Kong protests, where mass opposition against the extradition bill have entered their eleventh consecutive week.
Speaking to reporters in New Jersey, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday morning that despite the “tough situation,” he hopes things will work out “for everybody” and “for liberty.”
“I hope nobody gets hurt, I hope nobody gets killed,” Trump said as he departed.
The UN Human Rights Office also made its first public statement regarding the protests, condemning the Hong Kong police for violating “international norms and standards” while deploying crowd control equipment, including firing tear gas into enclosed spaces and directly at protesters, which it said could create “a considerable risk of death or serious injury.”
Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, read out a statement in which the Commissioner urged the police to “act with restraint” and conform with the “principles of necessity and proportionality” to ensure “the right of those who are expressing their views peacefully are respected and protected,” according to an Aug. 13 press briefing. The Commissioner also called on the Hong Kong government to “engage as widely as possible” and to “listen to the grievances of the people of Hong Kong.”
U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said that he was “appalled” and “outraged” by the police’s escalating brutality that has left multiple local journalists injured. He also said that he will pray for the young injured woman.
“The whole world is watching in real time. We know the truth and we will not be fooled by attempts to demonize these protesters,” he said in an Aug. 12 tweet. “America must be on the side of those peacefully protesting for democracy and the rule of law.”
The Hong Kong bureau of The Epoch Times contributed to this report.