Hong Kong protesters have said they are ‘deeply sorry’ for ‘overreacting’ during violent clashes at the city’s airport on Tuesday.
Flights resumed on Wednesday amid heightened security at Hong Kong airport, one of the world’s busiest. This followed two days of disruptions sparked by protesters swarming the airport.
In chaotic scenes that would once have been unthinkable for Hong Kong, a peaceful sit-in at the airport turned violent late on Tuesday as protesters confronted and held a man they believed was an undercover Chinese agent.
Busloads of riot police arrived in response, clashing with furious demonstrators before withdrawing once the man was removed, and leaving the terminal briefly in control of activists who then briefly detained a reporter from China’s Global Times newspaper, a nationalistic tabloid run by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily.
In another dramatic incident, demonstrators surrounded a policeman who had forced a protester to the floor, grabbed his baton from him and started attacking him, until he took out his gun and pointed it at them.
Many travelers have been forced to stay in the city overnight on Tuesday while airlines struggle to find other ways to get them to their destinations.
A statement from the protesters said: ‘It is not our intention to cause delays to your travels. We ask for your understanding and forgiveness as young people in Hong Kong continue to fight for freedom.
‘After months of prolonged resistance, we are frightened, angry and exhausted. Some of us have become easily agitated and overreacted last night.’
A further group of activists who were in the airport arrivals area on Wednesday morning unfurled a banner that said: ‘We’re deeply sorry about what happened yesterday. We were desperate and we made imperfect decisions. Please accept our apologies.’
Riot police use pepper spray to disperse anti-extradition bill protesters during a mass demonstration after a woman was allegedly shot in the eye during a rally on Sunday. Police and protesters have clashed outside the Terminal 1 of the airport
Fu Guohao, reporter of Chinese media Global Times website, is tied by protesters during a mass demonstration today
A police officer aims his gun against protesters during the demonstration in Hong Kong airport in a shocking image from today’s protests
A photographer is seen trying to separate a policeman from a woman on the floor. The scuffles broke out in the evening between police and protesters after an injured person was taken out of the main terminal by medics
One man, believed to be a protester, is seriously wounded during the clash at the Hong Kong airport. Officers armed with pepper spray and swinging batons confronted the protesters who used luggage carts to barricade entrances to the terminal
Police fire tear-gas shells to disperse Pro-Democracy protestors in the Sham Shui Po Area of Hong Kong on August 14
But while flights were back on schedule riot police used tear gas to disperse protesters outside a police station on Wednesday, with Chinese forces seen amassing near the region.
In the blue-collar Sham Shui Po area, police fired tear gas on Wednesday night at a group of protesters rallying outside the station, where demonstrators had gathered to burn fake currency and incense as a way to show their opposition to the police.
The protest took place during the month-long Hungry Ghost Festival, when offerings are made to ward off the spirits of ancestors. Police armed with riot shields and batons marched through the area. Officers carried warning flags and fired tear gas as they advanced, but protesters had already scrambled away.
It comes as video footage and satellite images emerged showing hundreds of military vehicles gathered at a sports centre in a mainland city bordering Hong Kong in an ominous sign that China might be preparing a tough crackdown on the city’s protesters who Beijing has branded ‘terrorists’.
U.S. President Donald Trump yesterday said Chinese troops were moving to the border with Hong Kong, citing U.S. intelligence.
China said on Wednesday Hong Kong’s protest movement had reached ‘near terrorism’ and more street clashes followed ugly scenes the previous day when protesters set upon men they suspected of being government sympathisers.
While the movement’s supporters still have street protests planned, it is unclear what their next move is or whether they will be able to find new rallying sites to keep the pressure on authorities.
Police fire tear gas at anti-extradition bill protesters during clashes in Sham Shui Po in Hong Kong, China, August 14
A passerby covers her face after Police personnel fired tear-gas shells to disperse Pro-Democracy protestors this evening
The protest took place during the month-long Hungry Ghost Festival, when offerings are made to ward off the spirits of ancestors
Policemen cross over a bridge as they arrive at a gathering called by Pro-Democracy Protestors in the Sham Shui Po Area of Hong Kong
Pictured: Police officers and vehicles gather while standing off with protesters during a demonstration on Hungry Ghost Festival
New footage and satellite images emerge showing hundreds of military vehicles gathered at a sports centre in a mainland city bordering Hong Kong in an ominous sign that China could be preparing a tough crackdown
Hong Kong police said they arrested five people during clashes at the airport Tuesday night.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Operations Mak Chin-ho said the men, aged between 17 and 28, were arrested for illegal assembly. Two were also charged with assaulting a police officer and possessing weapons as riot police sought to clear the terminal.
Hong Kong law permits life imprisonment for those who commit violent acts or acts that might interfere with flight safety at an airport.
More than 74 million travellers pass through Hong Kong’s airport each year, making it ‘not an appropriate place of protest’, Mr Mak said.
‘Hong Kong police have always facilitated peaceful and orderly protests over the years, but the extremely radical and violent acts have certainly crossed the line and are to be most severely condemned,’ he said.
‘The police pledge to all citizens of Hong Kong that we will take steps to bring all culprits to justice.’
That was backed up by a statement on a new government website set up to provide the latest information on the crisis, which said: ‘The police will take relentless enforcement action to bring the persons involved to justice.’
Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific said it had cancelled 272 flights in the past two days, affecting more than 55,000 passengers, while 622 departures and arrivals went ahead.
Cathay also said it has fired two pilots in an apparent response to their involvement in activity related to pro-democracy protests. They included one pilot who is ‘currently involved in legal proceedings’.
The airport disruptions grew from a summer of demonstrations aimed at what many Hong Kong residents see as an increasing erosion of the freedoms they were promised in 1997 when Communist Party-ruled mainland China took over what had been a British colony.
More than 700 protesters have been arrested in total since the start of mass protests in early June.
The demonstrators demand that Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam steps down and scraps proposed legislation under which some suspects could be sent to mainland China, where critics say they could face torture and unfair or politically charged trials.
Ms Lam has rejected calls for dialogue, saying the protesters are threatening to push their home into an ‘abyss’.
The United States said today that it was concerned about movements of Chinese forces on the border with Hong Kong and urged Beijing to honor the territory’s autonomy as pro-democracy protests continued.
‘The United States is deeply concerned by reports of Chinese paramilitary movement along the Hong Kong border’, a State Department spokesperson said in a statement.
‘The United States strongly urges Beijing to adhere to its commitments in the Sino-British Joint Declaration to allow Hong Kong to exercise a high degree of autonomy.’
The news comes after multiple Chinese state media released videos to show tanks and military trucks being mobilised to Shenzhen, which shares a 22-mile-long border with Hong Kong.
U.S. President Donald Trump yesterday said Chinese troops were moving to the border with Hong Kong, citing U.S. intelligence (pictured: Footage and satellite images emerge showing hundreds of military vehicles gathered at a sports centre in a mainland city)
A protester stands in front of the police during an anti-government rally in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong, on August 14
A Pro-Democracy protester runs to throw back a tear-gas shell fired by Police personnel in the Sham Shui Po Area
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling for a peaceful solution to the unrest in Hong Kong amid fears China could use force to quell pro-democracy protests
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday said Xi Jinping can ‘humanely’ resolve the violent standoff with protesters in Hong Kong and appeared to suggest meeting the Chinese leader.
‘I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it,’ Trump tweeted from vacation at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.
‘Personal meeting?’ he added in what appeared to be an idea for offering his own help to Xi directly.
Protesters have staged 10 weeks of relentless protests to demand greater freedoms in Hong Kong, including rallies that paralyzed the semi-autonomous city’s airport, one of the world’s busiest travel hubs.
The United States has said it is ‘deeply concerned’ over Chinese security force movements on the border with Hong Kong and urged Beijing to honor the territory’s autonomy.