The Hong Kong International Airport resumed operations on Wednesday after a night of chaos which saw protesters clash with riot police, paralysing the operations at the international hub and causing flight cancellations.
One of the world’s main air-transport hubs, Hong Kong International Airport has since last Friday been swarmed by thousands of anti-government protesters who gathered there for a sit-in to draw international travellers’ attention to their home city’s ongoing political crisis and the alleged police brutality employed against demonstrators.
The protests led the airport authority to cancel all flights on Monday and suspend all check-in processes on Tuesday, leaving hundreds of travellers stranded and frustrated.
On Wednesday, however, only a few dozen protesters remained at the airport in a sanctioned area after the airport authority obtained an interim injunction against demonstrators, Efe news reported.
The authority said in a statement that people would be “restrained from attending or participating in any demonstration or protest… in the airport other than in the area designated by the Airport Authority”.
Additional security measures were put in place restricting access to the terminal – with only staff and passengers with valid boarding passes allowed in.
On Tuesday night, protesters had blocked travellers from checking into their flights, clashed with police, and tied down two men that they suspected of being spies. One of them was identified as Fu Guohao, a reporter working for China’s state-run newspaper Global Times.
As the airport struggled to return to normal on Wednesday, protesters gathered at the airport, bowing their heads to passengers and holding signs apologizing for their behaviour. “Sorry for the inconvenience. We are fighting for the future of our home”, read one banner.
China’s Hong Kong and Macao affairs office called the airport protests “near-terrorist acts”. It also strongly condemned the attack on the Global Times reporter at the airport by what it said were violent protesters.
Pro-Beijing lawmakers in Hong Kong also denounced the protesters and called their actions “terrorism.”
“What happened last (Tuesday) night fits the Beijing description of ‘terrorist behaviour’,” said lawmaker Aron Kwok Wai-keung, adding, “the strength of violence matches the description”.
Lawmaker Priscilla Leung said there was no justification for the levels of violence on display at the airport yesterday. “I don’t buy the protesters’ excuses,” she said.
On Wednesday, passengers were able to conduct check-in procedures. But the passengers, who had their flights delayed or changed, were still waiting at the airport for confirmation of their departure time.
“I’m very angry. Some of the protesters said they were sorry but I think they were just having fun here, obstructing us,” said Pia from Germany. “I can’t believe this could be happening in the 21st century.”
Hong Kong is witnessing the 11th consecutive week of demonstrations that erupted in June, sparked by the government’s controversial extradition bill that was later shelved by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam after intense pressure.
The controversy surrounding the now-defunct extradition bill, which would have enabled fugitives to be transferred from Hong Kong to mainland China to stand trial under the latter’s opaque legal system, has morphed into a set of wider demands for democracy in the ex-British colony.