29 February 2020
Riot police use pepper spray and batons against protesters during clashes at the airport on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters
Riot police use pepper spray and batons against protesters during clashes at the airport on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

Clashes erupt at airport after protesters assault mainland men

Clashes between police and protesters broke out at the Hong Kong International Airport on Tuesday night after protesters assaulted two men they thought were mainland agents.

Flights were disrupted for the second day as thousands of protesters occupied the Chek Lap Kok terminal to condemn what they called the excessive use of force by the police in recent clashes.

At around 7:30 p.m., a group of protesters at the departure hall surrounded a man who they said was acting in a suspicious manner.

They later accused the man of being a mainland public security officer posing as one of them after they found his mainland identity card had the same name as one of those in a list of such officers, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports. They did not say where and how they got the list.

The protesters then held him and began punching him. The man said he felt unwell and appeared to faint.

Acting on a request from the Airport Authority, police officers arrived at the scene at 10:45 p.m. Paramedics later came to treat the man.

But as the paramedics, with the help of airport security staff, were about to take the mainland man to hospital, protesters tried to prevent them from leaving.

At around 11 p.m., a large number of police officers including those from the Special Tactical Squad stormed the building. The police told protesters that they only wanted to escort a visitor who had been injured to hospital and stressed that it was not a dispersal operation.

But the protesters “continuously hurled miscellaneous objects and aimed laser beams at police officers”, according to a government press release issued in the early hours of Wednesday.

Police then used pepper spray and batons against protesters who were blocking their way. During the clashes, one officer pulled out his gun and briefly pointed it at protesters.

A police officer was assaulted and his baton snatched, prompting him to draw a pistol to “protect himself from threats to life or serious injury”, the government press release said.

After the mainland man was put in an ambulance, protesters threw water bottles and rubbish at the police who were leaving.

Demonstrators also used baggage carts to try to block the vehicle from departing, RTHK reported. Still, the ambulance was able to depart and reach Princess Margaret Hospital.

Not long afterwards, protesters accosted another mainland man, who they said had been posing as a journalist and taking headshots of them with his mobile phone. They held the man, tied him up and assaulted him.

The man was later rescued and sent to North Lantau Hospital.

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of Global Times, a publication of the  Communist Party’s People’s Daily, said on his Twitter account that the victim was one of its reporters, who was in Hong Kong for news coverage and had no other mission. In the post, Hu also asked the protesters to release the reporter.

The government press release said police “severely condemned” protesters’ acts that “disregarded the law and order”. The police reiterated that “an in-depth investigation will be conducted, tracing all clues, to bring assailants to justice”.

According to the release, five persons were arrested at the airport for various offenses including unlawful assembly, possession of offensive weapons, assaulting police officers and breach of the peace, while two officers were injured and sent to North Lantau Hospital.

In another press release, a spokesman said the government condemned the protesters’ violent acts at the airport.

The protesters “are outrageous and have overstepped the bottom line of a civilized society”, the spokesman said, adding that police “will take relentless enforcement action to bring the persons involved to justice”.

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