Hong Kong International Airport’s administrative body has secured a court injunction that prevents anyone from disrupting flights, local media reported Wednesday, in response to pro-democracy protesters grounding all flights out of the airport for two days.
The Airport Authority reportedly filed for the injunction on Tuesday after authorities canceled a second day of flights and protesters spent their fifth day participating in a sit-in against government repression. Officials said they were forced to cancel nearly 1,000 flights due to the sit-in, which prevented passengers from getting to their gates, according to the South China Morning Post.
Protesters ultimately relented late Tuesday and early Wednesday local time after police burst into the airport seeking to extract a man that protesters had identified as a Chinese government agent, tied up, and beaten. Protesters also tied up a second man later identified as Fu Guohao, a writer for the Chinese Communist Party propaganda arm the Global Times.
The protest movement published multiple anonymous apologies Wednesday for the violence Tuesday night, directed also at some police who protesters surrounded, stole their weapons from, and beat. The protesters argued that the airport was the “safest” place to make their statement, as authorities would not be able to use tear gas or other mass weapons without taking the risk of injuring foreigners and tourists, causing an international incident. Police indeed appeared to refrain from using tear gas on Tuesday, instead deploying pepper spray on individuals they considered a threat.
Protesters began suspecting that police and Chinese regime spies were hiding among them after Hong Kong officials admitted that officers disguised themselves as protesters – wearing black shirts, construction hats, and surgical masks – and then intentionally sparked violent incidents at peaceful protests, beating and arresting protesters without properly identifying themselves.
Hong Kong’s Apple Daily reported Wednesday that the Airport Authority injunction specifically bans anyone from “interfering with the normal use of the Hong Kong International Airport,” which bans not only sit-ins at airport gates but any attempts to block roads to the airport or prevent anyone from reaching their flights or leaving the airport after landing. It limits protesting only to areas designated by authority, which will choose to place them where they will not obstruct passengers trying to catch flights or leave their arrival gates. The Morning Post adds that the injunction also prohibits anyone from “inciting” such behavior, which extends its legal power to individuals not present at the airport but urging more action. Violating the court order could result in prison time.
Speaking to the Morning Post, Senior Counsel Anson Wong Man-kit said that the injunction makes the Airport Authority’s policies for keeping the peace at the airport into enforceable law. As a court has mandated regular operations at the airport, police now have the responsibility to act to enforce the court order. This may take some pressure off of the Airport Authority from pro-China sources. The Global Times pointedly noted on Wednesday that authorities did not answer their questions regarding why they allowed a peaceful assembly in the airport at all.
The current wave of protests in the southern Chinese city began in early June in response to a legislative bill that would have allowed China to extradite into communist territory anyone accused of violating Communist Party law. The bill would not have discriminated between Hong Kong residents, Chinese citizens, and foreigners, and it was not clear if it gave Beijing the power to disappear into its notorious prisons anyone who publicly criticized the Communist Party or worshipped outside of the confines of the “patriotic” communist religious institutions. Protesters argued that the bill made it possible for China to enforce its laws on Hong Kong soil, a violation of the “One Country, Two Systems” policy that China agreed to when the United Kingdom handed over sovereignty of the city in 1997.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced in June that the Legislative Council (LegCo) would table the bill in response to the protests, triggering even larger protests, as tabling the bill makes it possible for lawmakers to revive it at any time. In response to police attacks on peaceful protesters, the pro-democracy movement has established five demands for its government: a full withdrawal of the extradition law, freedom for imprisoned protesters, an independent investigation into police brutality, a government apology for calling the June 12 march a “riot,” and direct election of all Hong Kong lawmakers to prevent another situation like that surrounding the extradition bill.
The Chinese Communist Party and its propaganda arms have repeatedly referred to protesters as “rioters,” this week escalating the name-calling to “mobsters.” The Global Times, in particular, has called for police to show “zero tolerance” against the protesters and, in the aftermath of the attack on Fu Guohao, branded them “terrorists.”
“The whole newsroom of the Global Times was outraged by rioters treating our reporter in such an inhumane way and strongly condemned the act, which could be considered terrorism,” the Times wrote on Wednesday in a piece attacking Apple Daily for allegedly revealing that Fu had identified himself as a “tourist” to protesters while antagonizing them. The Apple Daily report would explain why protesters stole Fu’s bag and rummaged through it to find identification showing him to be a journalist.
The police entered the airport around 11 p.m. local time Tuesday in response to the Airport Authority, which received calls for medical attention for the unidentified man the protesters tied up.
Police arrested five individuals in the raid. Journalists present during the melee said it appeared that police were targeting specific individuals for detention, not indiscriminately arresting protesters.