Flights resume after night of violence at Hong Kong's airport

Police clash with protesters at Hong Kong International Airport
Police clash with protesters at Hong Kong International Airport Copyright REUTERS
By Joao Vitor Da Silva MarquesRosie Wright, Alice Tidey and NBC's Matt Bradley
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Flights have resumed at Hong Kong airport after a night of violence between protesters and police. At one time protesters turned on undercover police officers, accusing them of being spies for Beijing. China today branded the violence at the international airport as "near-terrorist acts".


Flights have resumed at Hong Kong airport after a night of violence between protesters and police.

China's Hong Kong affairs office on Wednesday branded the violence at the international airport as being "near-terrorist acts". The air-hub has reopened for staff members and travellers with tickets only.

A statement from the airport said:

To maintain smooth operations of the terminal and normal flight movement operations, as well as to ensure the safety of passengers and airport staff, Airport Authority Hong Kong (AA) will implement access control at the terminal buildings of Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) starting from 1400hrs today (14 August). Only departure passengers with a valid air ticket or boarding pass for a flight in the next 24 hours and a valid travel document, or airport staff with relevant identification document will be allowed to enter the terminal buildings until further notice.

NBC News Foreign correspondent Matt Bradley says appalling violence took place at the departures lounge, on the second day running of disruption. Anti-government protesters occupied and shut down the airport, blocking passengers, who were unable to get to their gates. As a result, hundreds of flights were cancelled. Bradley adds: “the protesters managed to find two men, one of them who they accused of being a spy working for Beijing and another a journalist working for a ‘pro-Beijing’ newspaper.” He says that the protesters "beat them up.” He goes on saying that at least one of them was “tied to a trolley and dragged around the airport” by the anti-government demonstrators.

That incident led to running battles between the protesters and the police, with dramatic scenes as the police tried to rescue the men being held by the protesters.

The brutality between the two-sides at the airport yesterday really changed the tone as anti-government demonstrators have claimed to be protesting peacefully up until that point.

The protesters say, in their own defence, that the “balance of force is still on the side of the police forces”. Chinese officials were quick to brand the protesters as “thugs” - reinforcing what they have been saying for weeks now.

On the same evening the UN Human Rights commissioner criticised the police's use of force outside of the "international norms and standards".

Hundreds of flights were cancelled or suspended as the anti-government protests caused chaos and disruption for a second successive day.

One traveller reported he and his wife had been stuck in the airport for two days.

Protesters, clad in black, have been blocking parts of the airport as the demonstrations that have rocked the city for weeks found their way into the major transport hub.

One traveller told Euronews the departure and immigration gates are blocked by protesters, and there was nobody at the information counters to help those who were stuck.

Asked what he would say to the protesters, he responded: "Fight the government, not the international travellers."

Protesters, and the cancelled flights at Hong Kong airport

Kenny, a protester at the airport, told Euronews society at large are concerned about police brutality towards young protesters on the front lines in the city.

"As one of the concerned Hongkongers, we decided to paralyse the airport to cause economic consequences," he said.

"Although the means are different, we also aim to give pressure to the government, in a hope that she answers the five demands of the general public without causing much bloodshed from our future generations."

Flights out of Hong Kong were first disrupted on Monday afternoon when thousands of protesters occupied the terminal.

The airport was the world's busiest air cargo hub last year and the eighth busiest airport for passenger traffic, according to Airports Council International.


Kien Tan was one of those caught up in the disruption on Monday. He was due to catch a British Airways flight from Hong Kong airport. He shared this video of protesters marching through the airport.

READ MORE: Police in Hong Kong fire tear gas as street protests continue

Protests have rocked the former British territory for ten weeks over proposed legislation that would have allowed Hong Kong citizens accused of crimes to be tried in mainland China.

A spokesperson for the UN Human Rights High Commissioner called on the Hong Kong authorities to investigate incidents where police were creating "considerable risk of death or serious injury" in the way they dealt with protesters.

"The UN Human Rights Office has reviewed credible evidence of law enforcement officials employing less-lethal weapons in ways that are prohibited by international norms and standards," a statement on its website read.


"For example, officials can be seen firing tear gas canisters into crowded, enclosed areas and directly at individual protesters on multiple occasions, creating a considerable risk of death or serious injury. The Office would urge the Hong Kong SAR authorities to investigate these incidents immediately, to ensure security personnel comply with the rules of engagement, and where necessary, amend the rules of engagement for law enforcement officials in response to protests where these may not conform with international standards."

Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam, told reporters on Tuesday the crisis was pushing the city "into an abyss".

"I ask everybody to put aside our differences and calm down, take a minute to look at our city, our home," she added, warning that "the recovery may take a long time."

The crisis appears to have become increasingly violent. Police fired tear gas at protesters on Sunday, a move that heavily condemned by the Civil Rights Observer, a local monitor, which described it as "inappropriate and excessive use of force."

It also criticised the authorities deploying plain-clothed officers to arrest protesters.


Police, meanwhile, condemned the "unlawful assemblies" and said several officers had been injured during the weekend.

Beijing, meanwhile, condemned protesters on Tuesday, arguing some of their actions constitute "serious crimes with sprouts of terrorism emerging."

Coverage of airport disruption on Monday

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Journalist • Joao Vitor Da Silva Marques

Video editor • Joao Vitor Da Silva Marques

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