Hong Kong protesters have apologised to the public for the chaos caused at the city’s airport, one of the world’s busiest transport hubs, after demonstrations brought flights to a halt for two consecutive days and stranded thousands of visitors.
One protest group asked in a lengthy statement for understanding, saying protesters chose the airport as a forum for demonstration only because they no longer felt safe protesting in public due to police violence.
The group apologised for clashes on Wednesday, in which police armed with batons and pepper spray clashed with thousands of protesters, saying that “after months of prolonged resistance, we are frightened, angry and exhausted. Some of us have become easily agitated and over-reacted last night.”
In messages posted online, protesters apologised to reporters, paramedics and travellers and vowed to “learn from our mistakes”.
Netizens on @lihkgofficial apologise for the inconvenience they caused yesterday at the Hong Kong airport. Chaos erupted last night as #antiELAB protesters had blocked security gates. Some travellers said they were “selfish” and caused “nuisances”. #antiELAB #ExtraditionLaw pic.twitter.com/msHfRa9poL— Ezra Cheung (@ezracheungtoto) August 14, 2019
Earlier on Wednesday morning, protesters were debating online how and when to apologise on LIHKG, an online Reddit-style forum where protesters crowdsource decisions. One post called for protesters to make an apology tour and hand out candy and postcards. The post had received 4,000 likes by mid morning.
While anti-government airport demonstrations began with a peaceful sit-in lasting from Friday through to Sunday, protesters began to change their tactics on Monday as they turned out in the thousands to protest against police brutality towards protesters over the weekend.
By mid-afternoon Monday they began to block passengers from checking in and moving through the departures area, prompting the airport authority to abruptly cancel flights. They repeated the same tactic on Tuesday afternoon, but with more confrontations with passengers as emotions boiled over.
A video from Hong Kong Free Press showed protesters yelling at a passenger who attempted to push his way through a large crowd into the departures area while carrying a small child. Elsewhere, protesters engaged in a heated debated with a Chinese visitor who was angry at the amount of money the delays had cost him, with one protester throwing coins in his direction.
The crowd turned uglier later in the day when hundred of protesters turned on an undercover police officer and then tied up a reporter for the Global Times, a Chinese state news outlet, prompting Hong Kong police to launch a rescue operation. Protesters then clashed with riot police who attempted to force their way into the airport with pepper spray, leading to the arrests of five people.
Tuesday was not the first time that protesters have used violent tactics. They have been seen on a number of occasions hurling bricks and other items at riot police, while a police officer over the weekend was injured by a “petrol bomb”.
Separately, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying accused the US of inciting protesters to turn against the local government and Beijing, while commentary in Chinese state news outlet Xinhua accused protesters intent on “destroying Hong Kong’s future”.