Hong Kong Law & Crime Politics & Protest

Pepper spray and arrests as Hong Kong riot police stage ‘rescue’ during airport sit-in protest

By Jennifer Creery, Tom Grundy, Holmes Chan & Kris Cheng

Chaotic scenes broke out at the entrance of Hong Kong International Airport on Tuesday night as police attempted to escort a man out of the departures hall who had been surrounded by protesters. The clashes came during a mass occupation protest that earlier brought flights to a halt.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

For over three hours, the man was surrounded by protesters in Terminal 1 after they accused of being an undercover agent from mainland China.

Suspicions were raised after a message on Telegram messenger was shared that appeared to identify him as a public security officer – a charge he denied.

China extradition airport August 13 police protest

A man was surrounded by protesters after being accused of being an undercover mainland agent. Photo: May James/HKFP.

He was chased down and briefly attacked as several airport security officers sought to protect him.

China extradition airport August 13 police protest

A man was surrounded by protesters after being accused of being an undercover mainland agent. Photo: May James/HKFP.

Paramedics arrived to treat him after he appeared to faint at 10pm but were unable to take him away from angry crowds who demanded to see identification and the contents of his phone.

China extradition airport August 13 police protest

Photo: May James/HKFP.

The man claimed he was simply seeing friends off at the airport.

At around 11pm, a police press release stated that the force wished to escort the man from the scene: “Police stress that this is not an operation to disperse those assembled but is for extricating the visitor safely.”

China extradition airport August 13 police protest

Photo: May James/HKFP.

As they arrived on shortly afterwards, officers used pepper spray to push back hostile crowds.

One officer pulled out his service revolver and pointed it at protesters after being attacked.

China extradition airport August 13 police protest

Photo: May James/HKFP.

Several protesters tried to prevent police vehicles from leaving the scene, throwing trolleys into the road, damaging the cars and hurling abuse at officers.

China extradition airport August 13 police protest

Photo: May James/HKFP.

Backup arrived shortly afterwards as Police Tactical Unit officers made several arrests.

China extradition airport August 13 police protest

Photo: May James/HKFP.

Multiple people were injured in the scuffles as demonstrators barricaded the entrances to the departures terminal.

China extradition airport August 13 police protest

Photo: May James/HKFP.

As police retreated, protesters surrounded a second man wearing a yellow vest at around 11:47pm, accusing him of pretending to be a journalist.

China extradition airport August 13 police protest

Photo: May James/HKFP.

The man, thought to be from China, had his bag searched by protesters who found an “I love police” t-shirt, name cards from police officers, and a Global Times reporter identification card.

China extradition airport August 13 police protest

Photo: May James/HKFP.

Demonstrators used plastic zip ties to bind the man’s hands together and prevent him from moving. He was taken away in an ambulance at around 12:20am after appearing to faint.

China extradition airport August 13 police protest

Photo: May James/HKFP.

The days-long airport sit-in against the police use of force led to the cancellation of flights on Monday and Tuesday.

China extradition airport August 13 police protest

Photo: May James/HKFP.

All check-in services for departing flights were suspended at around 3pm on Tuesday.

Tense scenes erupted as protesters prevented some travellers from boarding their flights, blocking their paths with luggage trollies.

China extradition airport August 13 police protest

Photo: May James/HKFP.

Thousands remained at the airport as the final express train left the local station shortly before 1am. Several groups told HKFP that they may return on Wednesday.

Pepper spray and arrests as Hong Kong riot police stage 'rescue' during airport sit-in protest