Chaos erupted in Hong Kong International Airport late Tuesday as riot police barrelled through the masses of hundreds of protesters demanding freedom from China.
CNN International reported, following the police operation that reporters witnessed at least four arrests and that officers appeared to be targeting specific people. To get through the protesters, police used pepper spray and batons to push back the crowd. According to an official statement from Hong Kong police, airport officials requested that the riot officers enter the airport to rescue a man who protesters had apprehended and accused of being an undercover police officer. The South China Morning Post also reported that the airport received a court injunction requesting police remove the protesters from the premises, though Hong Kong police did not issue an official statement to that effect and officers left without clearing out every protester.
Pro-democracy protesters shut down the airport Tuesday for the second day in a row, forcing administrators to cancel all flights, in a bid to get the China-controlled Hong Kong government to listen to their demands. Some protesters appeared to panic and target others suspected of working for the communist government after officials admitted this weekend that officers had dressed up as protesters to infiltrate the marches.
Protesters have firmly listed five demands intended to make Hong Kong’s governance more democratic and free from Chinese Communist Party influence.
Police reportedly entered the Hong Kong airport around 11 p.m. local time after protesters had successfully grounded all flights for the day, fully armed and stating they were present to remove a man who had suffered injuries after protesters accused him of being a government agent. The man, whose identity remains unknown, was tied up and beaten for allegedly entering the crowds with the intent to disrupt the protests. Protesters initially refused to let paramedics take him away after detaining him for three hours, according to eyewitnesses.
Overwhelming tension during today’s #HongKongProtests at #HongKongAirport where the police used pepper spray to restrain the demonstrators. Some police cars where also blocked during some heated moments. #HongKong #Democracy pic.twitter.com/OWYwOD35OT
— Alexandre Krauss (@AlexandreKrausz) August 13, 2019
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 13, 2019
“After arriving at the scene, police used pepper spray to push back hostile crowds. One officer pulled out his service revolver and pointed it at protesters. Several demonstrators were arrested in the ensuing scuffle,” the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported.
Sky News reporter Stuart Ramsay, reporting live from the scene, described the police entry into the airport as “absolutely ferocious,” leaving many to believe that the police had entered to remove all the protesters violently.
As police fought off protesters, a group of protesters surrounded a second man who they accused of being a Communist Party agent. The Global Times, a Chinese communist propaganda outlet, later identified the man as a journalist with the newspaper, Fu Guohao. Fu’s byline indeed appears on the Global Times‘s pages, though in few articles, all recent reports casting a negative light on the anti-China protests. When searching his bag, protesters found Fu’s journalist identification card and a t-shirt reading “I [heart] HK Police.”
Fu Guohao, reporter of GT website is being seized by demonstrators at HK airport. I affirm this man being tied in this video is the reporter himself. He has no other task except for reporting. I sincerely ask the demonstrators to release him. I also ask for help of West reporters pic.twitter.com/sbFb0L3s92
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) August 13, 2019
Police reportedly left shortly after extracting Fu, but not without protesters attempting to keep them out of the main areas of the airport. Some appeared to attack police; on one occasion, journalists recorded an officer pointing his gun at protesters, who appeared to have stolen his baton and began beating him with it. Some reports suggested that protesters blocked police from leaving as they retreated by using luggage carts and other items lying around the airport.
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) August 13, 2019
The retreat after paramedics extracted the two men held hostage aligns with a statement from Hong Kong police insisting that the operation today was intended to bring medical attention to someone who needed it.
“As per a request for assistance from the Airport Authority, the Police appeal to the protesters to stop their obstruction so that the visitor can receive timely medical attention,” the police said in a statement. “The Police stress that this is not a dispersal operation and aim to escort the visitor safely to a hospital.”
Sky’s Ramsay reported that police may, however, begin limiting access to the airport to keep the protests from shutting down the airport a third day by only allowing individuals with tickets to flights to enter. Airport authorities have not yet made an announcement to that effect at press time.
Protesters appeared particularly concerned Tuesday about police infiltrating their movement after a violent weekend in which officers dressed in black and wearing hard hats – the typical outfit of the protest movement – began beating and arresting individuals who were out supporting the democracy movement. Officers were caught on video beating and arresting protesters without indicating that they were police officers and inflicting pain on protesters already arrested and not resisting.
Protesters also accuse police of blinding a woman on Sunday by shooting her in the face with a bean bag projectile at close range, a violation of police protocol. The woman reportedly underwent hours of surgery to repair her face, but is expected to lose her “ruptured eye.”
The Hong Kong pro-democracy movement is demanding direct election of all lawmakers, freedom for political prisoners, an independent inquiry into police brutality, a full withdrawal of a bill that would allow China to extradite individuals accused of violating Chinese Communist Party law, and an apology from the government for calling the June 12 peaceful protest a “riot.”