HONG KONG (AP) — Frenzied mob violence Tuesday against two men protesters suspected of being spies from mainland China marked the second day of pro-democracy demonstrations that have caused mass cancellations and disruptions in Hong Kong’s busy airport.
Calm eventually returned, with most of the protesters leaving the airport hours after officers armed with pepper spray and swinging batons tried to enter the terminal, fighting with demonstrators who barricaded entrances with luggage carts. Riot police clashed briefly with the demonstrators, who said they planned to return to the airport early Wednesday.
More than 100 flights were cancelled on Tuesday, the fifth consecutive day that protesters occupied the airport. Airlines were still working through a backlog of more than 200 flights from Monday when the airport announced in the afternoon that check-in processes would once again be suspended.
“Democracy is a good thing,” said signs that appeared to be aimed at mainland Chinese and foreign travelers. Many signs also contained apologies for the disruption to travelers: “We stand here to obstruct, only for one single reason. We love and care for Hong Kong. We hope you will understand. Sorry.”
The burst of violence included protesters beating up at least two men they suspected of being undercover agents and came the same day Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader warned that the demonstrators had pushed events onto a “path of no return,” highlighting the hardening positions on both sides.
Police have acknowledged using “decoy” officers, and the violence followed weekend sightings of men dressed like demonstrators — in black and wearing face masks — appearing to arrest protesters.
In both instances, angry demonstrators pushed past people trying to hold them back and attacked the men, binding their wrists together and beating them to the ground. The two were eventually taken away by paramedics.
In one case, protesters detained a man they claimed to be an undercover police officer from mainland China, pulled his identity documents from his wallet and encouraged journalists to photograph them. None of them showed that he was a police officer, though protesters claimed to have found his name on an online list of police officers in southern Guangdong province. The Associated Press could not independently verify the man’s identity.