Hong Kong’s riot police have clashed with the protesters who blockaded the departures area of the international airport and forced flights to be suspended for a second day, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
Armed with batons and pepper spray, riot police on Tuesday clashed with thousands of protesters at the airport as the political crisis in the former British colony worsened.
The violent clashes between demonstrators and the riot police erupted after nightfall, following a day of mostly peaceful protests with a few arguments with frustrated travelers, the Guardian reported on Tuesday.
Demonstrators were reportedly quick to erect barricades as the riot police tried to enter the airport using pepper spray and batons.
Police arrested several protesters in the aftermath of a series of violent confrontations, one of which can be seen in video footage of a report by Mike Bird from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
The footage shows unarmed demonstrators cornering an armed officer after he had forced a woman to the ground. The protesters are then seen grabbing his baton off him and beating him with until he draws his pistol and they flee immediately afterward.
Bird also posted the video footage on his official Twitter account, saying, “Police officer had his baton taken from him and was attacked with it. Drew his pistol and aimed at protesters. Astonished nobody killed here tonight.”
Police officer had his baton taken from him and was attacked with it. Drew his pistol and aimed at protesters. Astonished nobody killed here tonight. pic.twitter.com/Wox8yziDnz
— Mike Bird (@Birdyword) August 13, 2019
The pro-democracy protest movement that was initiated in response to a now-suspended bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China have swelled into wider calls for democracy during the past nine weeks, Reuters said.
According to demonstrators, the movement aims to fight the erosion of the “one country, two systems” arrangement that enshrined some autonomy for Hong Kong since 1997, when China took it back from Britain.
The increasingly violent clashes between police and protesters have been roiling the Asian financial hub for more than nine weeks with Hong Kong’s stock market falling to a seven-month low on Tuesday.
The airport protest came after the United Nations high commissioner for human rights urged authorities of Hong Kong to exercise restraint and investigate evidence of its forces firing teargas at protesters in ways not allowed under international law.
The Associated Press (AP) reported that scuffles broke out on Tuesday evening because of an injured man who had been detained by protesters on suspicion of being an undercover mainland Chinese agent.
Although the demonstrators initially did not allow him to leave, medics then bundled him onto a stretcher and forced their way through jeering throngs to an ambulance, Reuters elaborated.
A second man was held and tied down by protesters at the airport on suspicion of being a spy posing as a reporter. The man was later identified by the nationalistic Chinese tabloid Global Times as their editor, Hu Xijin.
After Xijin was taken away by ambulance a few hours later, the situation at the international airport calmed down and the crowds thinned out.
An injunction was granted by a judge late on Tuesday night so that the protesters occupying the terminal building can be cleared, according to news reports by Hong Kong media.
Riot police were blamed by human rights groups and democracy activists for using increasingly excessive force with a dozen public hospitals’ medical staff holding a sit-in protest on Tuesday against the government’s refusal to accede to protesters’ demands.
The Guardian underlined that at least 40 people, including a woman who was hit with a beanbag round fired from a police shotgun and could lose an eye, were treated in hospital after clashes on Sunday.
United States President Donald Trump indicated that the Chinese government was moving troops to the border with Hong Kong and he urged calm.
Admitting that the situation in Hong Kong was tricky, he stated that he hoped it would work out for both parties, without anyone getting hurt or killed.
Hong Kong’s last British governor, Chris Patten, on Tuesday held forth that Chinese intervention would be disastrous.
Speaking to the BBC, he warned: “That would be a catastrophe for China and of course for Hong Kong.”
Referring to the current President Xi Jinping, who faces one of his biggest challenges since coming to power in 2012, Patten added: “Since President Xi has been in office, there’s been a crackdown on dissent and dissidents everywhere. The party has been in control of everything.”
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam also warned on Tuesday that violence was pushing Hong Kong “down a path of no return.”
Making an appeal for calm and restraint, she asked: “Take a minute to look at our city, our home. Can we bear to push it into the abyss and see it smashed to pieces?”
Although the protesters demand her resignation, Lam insists that she will stay in the office.
Foreign Minister Dominic Raab of Britain, a guarantor of the agreement that transferred Hong Kong to China in 1997, on Tuesday condemned the violence on social media and encouraged constructive dialogue.
“Concerning to see what’s happening in Hong Kong and the worrying pictures of clashes between police & protesters at the airport,” Raab noted on his official Twitter account.
Concerning to see what's happening in Hong Kong and the worrying pictures of clashes between police & protesters at the airport. As I said to Carrie Lam during my call last week, we condemn the violence & encourage constructive dialogue to find a peaceful way forward.
— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) August 13, 2019
Legal experts of Hong Kong argue that Beijing might be preparing the grounds for using anti-terrorism laws to try to quench the protests.