A group of demonstrators have apologised for the protest action at Hong Kong’s airport on Tuesday where travellers were blocked from proceeding to immigration checks. Flights were halted for the second day in a row as thousands rallied against cases of apparent police violence over the weekend.
Protesters also surrounded two mainland Chinese men, accusing one of being an undercover agent and another of pretending to be a journalist. Hong Kong courts have granted an injunction to clear protesters in the airport except for those conducting their sit-in at designated areas.
A group of anonymous protesters apologised on Wednesday: “It is not our intention to cause delays to your travels and we do not want to cause inconvenience to you. We ask for your understanding and forgiveness as young people in Hong Kong continue to fight for freedom and democracy.”
They said the airport protest was a last resort, citing alleged police brutality, cases of undercover police among protesters, as well as attacks by thugs.
“Although peaceful demonstrations involving tens of thousands of people went on for many days at the airport without incident, after months of prolonged resistance, we are frightened, angry and exhausted. Some of us have become easily agitated and over-reacted last night. For this we feel pained and dispirited and would like to express our most sincere apologies,” they said.
Some other protesters were seen apologising to travellers at the airport on Wednesday.
Pro-democracy camp convener Claudia Mo said on Wednesday that blocking travellers was wrong and would not help garner support. She said the apology was accepted and she hoped demonstrators could ensure it will not happen again.
“Having said that, we hope everyone, including travellers in and out of Hong Kong, would also understand the stress, the panicking, the suspicion, the restlessness involved in the crowd at the airport, ever since the police force’s admission of masquerading a certain number of officers as protesters with the aim of getting them arrested,” she said.
Mo said that she could not obtain all the details of the incidents at the airport, and could not be certain if they involved undercover instigators.
She denied that she was distancing herself from protesters, saying that different sectors of society were still supporting the young activists: “I am just stating what is right and what is wrong,” she said.
Hong Kong’s leading airline Cathay Pacific said its operations had been seriously disrupted over recent days. It said 272 Cathay and Cathay Dragon flights had been cancelled, affecting more than 55,000 passengers.
“Once again, we would like to reiterate our firm support for the Hong Kong SAR Government, the Chief Executive and the Police in their efforts to restore law and order,” the airline said in a statement.
The pro-Beijing camp said protesters had crossed a moral bottom line by blocking tourists and journalists, and assaulting tourists.
Lawmakers Ma Fung-kwok and Kwok Wai-keung cited Beijing’s recent remarks as saying that protesters’ behaviour was a sign of “terrorism emerging.”
“If they continue to do that, Hong Kong’s name internationally will be tarnished,” Ma said.
But when asked if the camp would specifically condemn apparent triad mob attacks in Yuen Long and North Point as terrorism, DAB party leader Starry Lee stated only that they sought to condemn all violence.
The police condemned protesters’ behaviour, but stopped short of deeming it terrorism.
“I only think it was a serious crime, but it was not terrorism,” said Steve Li, senior superintendent of the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau.
Assistant Commissioner of Police (Operations) Mak Chin-ho said the police did not send undercover officers to the airport protest on Tuesday.
A police officer chased a protester at the airport on Tuesday night after police entered to remove a mainland man who had been surrounded and attacked by protesters. The officer pulled out his pistol after he himself was surrounded by protesters.
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 Brrrrrd (@Birdyword) August 13, 2019
Mak said the officer made the right decision to pull the gun out when his life was under threat: “The decision was absolutely correct, legal and reasonable. His performance was brave, decisive and professional,” Mak said.