Flights resume at Hong Kong airport as protesters apologize
HONG KONG (AP) — Flights resumed Wednesday at Hong Kong’s airport after two days of disruptions that descended into clashes with police, highlighting the hardening positions of pro-democracy protesters and the authorities in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. After nightfall, a new protest outside a police station in the city was dispersed as officers fired tear gas.
There was soul-searching in the protest movement, including the three dozen demonstrators who remained camped at the airport arrivals area. They asked travelers and the general public for forgiveness after their blockade turned into chaotic and frenzied violence.
While the movement’s supporters still have street protests planned, it’s unclear what their next move is or whether they will be able to find new rallying sites to keep the pressure on authorities.
Protesters spread pamphlets and posters on the floor in one section of the terminal but were not impeding travelers. Online, they also circulated letters and promotional materials apologizing for the inconveniences during the past five days of the airport occupation.
“It is not our intention to cause delays to your travels and we do not want to cause inconvenience to you,” said an emailed statement from a group of protesters. “We ask for your understanding and forgiveness as young people in Hong Kong continue to fight for freedom and democracy.”
The airport’s management said it had obtained “an interim injunction to restrain persons from unlawfully and willfully obstructing or interfering” with airport operations. It said an area of the airport had been set aside for demonstrations, but no protests would be allowed outside the designated area.
Additional identification checks were in place, but check-in counters were open and flights appeared to be operating normally. The demonstration resulted in more than 100 flight cancellations on Tuesday and about 200 on Monday.
Hong Kong police said they arrested five people during clashes at the airport Tuesday night.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Operations Mak Chin-ho said the men, aged between 17 and 28, were arrested for illegal assembly. Two were also charged with assaulting a police officer and possessing weapons as riot police sought to clear the terminal.
In Hong Kong’s blue-collar Sham Shui Po neighborhood, police fired tear gas Wednesday night at a group of protesters rallying outside a police station.
The protesters had gathered to burn phony currency and incense as a way to show their opposition to the police during the month-long Hungry Ghost Festival, when offerings are made to ward off the spirits of ancestors.
Police armed with riot shields and batons marched through the neighborhood. Officers carried warning flags and fired tear gas as they advanced, but protesters had already scrambled away.
belonging to the China’s paramilitary People’s Armed Police parked in a sports complex in the city of Shenzhen, across the border in Hong Kong, in what some have interpreted as a threat from Beijing to use increased force against protesters.
The pictures collected on Monday by Maxar’s WorldView show 500 or more vehicles sitting in and around the soccer stadium at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center.
President Donald Trump tweeted that U.S. intelligence believes that the Chinese government is moving troops to its border with Hong Kong and that, “Everyone should be calm and safe!”
While China has yet to threaten using the army — as it did against pro-democracy protesters in Beijing in 1989 — recent police exercises across Hong Kong’s border with mainland China were a sign of its ability to crush the demonstrations, even at a cost to Hong Kong’s reputation as a safe haven for business and international exchange.
Associated Press video journalist Katie Tam in Hong Kong and writer Kelvin Chan in London contributed.
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