Hundreds of Hong Kong protesters flooded into the arrival hall of one of the world’s busiest airports on Friday in the hope of sharing their message about the now-suspended extradition law with travellers.
Bearing multilingual signs, protesters sought to occupy a key part of Hong Kong International Airport from 1pm.
The demonstration was organised by airline industry workers independent of the Airport Authority, including from the Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendant’s Union.
Meanwhile, dozens positioned themselves by the passenger pick up areas, greeting incoming travellers with protest posters.
They shouted: “Welcome to Hong Kong, stay safe.”
A “Lennon Wall” – featuring Post-It Notes with messages of support for anti-extradition law protesters – was erected next to the protest site, while petitions to laying out protesters’ five core demands were distributed to passersby.
2. Retraction of the “riot” characterisation of the June 12 protest.
3. Release and exoneration of arrested protesters.
4. Formation of an independent commission of inquiry.
5. Immediate implementation of universal suffrage.
The sit-in comes after weeks of protests sparked by the government’s controversial extradition bill, which was suspended on June 15 but not axed.
The movement has since adopted additional demands including calls for universal suffrage, alongside an independent investigation into the police use of crowd control measures and their delayed response to a mob attack in Yuen Long last Sunday.
A television monitor showed looped videos of police officers using batons and tear gas against protesters, as well as clips of white-clad men, suspected to have triad links, beating commuters in Yuen Long station with sticks.
‘Still a safe place’
Ms Yeung, a 29-year-old flight attendant who helped to organise the action, told HKFP she wanted to let tourists outside of Hong Kong Island know that the anti-extradition law movement is nonviolent.
“We don’t have a big political background, we just come as civilians to support protesters,” she added. “All we want is justice. We also want to make sure the public knows Hong Kong is still a safe place, provided that we’re united together.”
She rejected the notion that the protest could give off the impression that the city was dangerous, saying: “We are just sitting here peacefully.”
The gathering was also attended by a group of four high school students who had organised a separate display, reiterating the demands in five different languages, away from the main protest site.
Sixteen-year-old Ms Ng told HKFP the purpose of their display was to spread their message to as many travellers as possible.
“We can’t stand this anymore,” she said. “We have to show foreigners that we need their support and that we are not afraid.”
Terence Leung, a 37-year-old teacher who used to work as a product designer and visual artist, stood in front of the airport action on a stool, holding a screen showing videos of Hong Kong police using batons and peppers spray against protesters.
He told HKFP that he believed video was the most efficient way to communicate to travellers who speak different languages.
“The most effective medium is to use video as well as graphic tools, that’s why I designed these fliers and videos about police brutality to explain to foreigners passing through this airport,” he said. “They show that the government is not willing to listen to the people instead they are using the police to avoid [answering] our demands.
‘Identify with Hong Kong’
The airport protest attracted the attention of curious travellers transiting through the lobby.
Oriol Casademont, a 26-year-old innovation consultant from Barcelona, was transiting through the airport with his two friends en route to Shenzhen. He told HKFP that he disagrees with the extradition bill and can relate to protesters.
“In Barcelona, we also have a lot of repressions, we have a lot of politicians in jail so we really identify with Hong Kong,” he said. “We relate to this because in Catalan you have people speaking Spanish, so you have disagreements as well.”
Samuel Leyne, a 23-year-old business and entrepreneurship student from Israel, told HKFP he was unfamiliar with the anti-extradition movement but was not bothered by the protest so long as it remains peaceful.
“I come from a country where there are also protests,” he said. “If [protesters in Hong Kong] manage to get in the airport and show their emotions, that means it’s an actual issue because you don’t enter the Tel Aviv airport so easily.”