Riot police and protesters clashed at Hong Kong’s international airport on Tuesday after flights were disrupted for a second day as the political crisis in the former British colony deepened.
Thousands of black-clad protesters jammed the terminal with used luggage carts to barricade entrances and could be heard chanting, singing and waving banners, with some adorning eye patches in solidarity with a woman injured in earlier protests who lost an eye.
Amid chaotic scenes officers armed with pepper spray and swinging batons confronted the pro-democracy activists and a number of violent scuffles broke out, resulting in arrests.
At one stage 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.
Enraged protesters also detained a man they suspected of being an undercover agent, and tied him up with cable ties and beat him, before he was taken away by ambulance crews. They also grabbed a second man who they suspected of being a spy.
Ominously, Beijing has characterised the Hong Kong protest movement as being akin to ‘terrorism’ as Chinese state and social media screened video of the country’s security forces gathering across the border opposite the international financial hub.
The prospect of a military confrontation against civilian protesters will inevitably recall the brutal suppression of pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989, which left hundreds – possibly thousands – dead.
Amid the intensifying protests, US President Donald Trump appealed for calm yesterday and said: ‘I hope it works out peacefully. I hope nobody gets hurt. I hope nobody gets killed.’
Authorities said operations at the airport had been ‘seriously disrupted’, with hundreds of flights cancelled on Tuesday, but on Wednesday morning flights appeared to be running on schedule – with further protests are expected as the confrontation shows no signs of abating.