Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters circulated several letters and messages Wednesday apologizing to travelers stranded in the city’s airport the last two days, grounded by protesters blocking departure gates to bring attention to China’s attempts to impose communist law on the region.
One group of protesters turned their apology letter into a large poster and held it up to tourists at the airport.
Hong Kong International Airport canceled all flights on Monday and Tuesday as a result of thousands of protesters occupying the transit hub. Late Tuesday, protesters surrounded a man they believed to be an undercover Chinese communist agent, tying him up and beating him. Protesters also apprehended a second man identified as a “reporter” for the communist propaganda tabloid Global Times. Police stormed the airport to extract the two men, resulting in chaotic scenes in which protesters attempted to hold back what some believed to be a raid to arrest those present.
Millions in Hong Kong have taken to the streets since early June following the introduction in the city’s Legislative Council (LegCo) of a law that would allow China to extradite anyone in Hong Kong if accused of violating Communist Party law. Following a series of brutal attacks from police and armed pro-China mobs, protesters took to the airport, where the presence of foreigners made it less likely for police or mobs to attack.
The protests have largely been peaceful with the exception of the mob attacks, which police confirmed were tied to triads, Hong Kong’s organized crime groups. Tuesday night’s attack on suspected Chinese regime agents – a response to police going undercover as protesters and then attacking from within – was a glaring exception.
“Many Hongkongers are exhausted and have become paranoid after experiencing all these fears and injustice,” one anonymous statement from the protesters, signed “a group of fellow Hongkongers longing for freedom and democracy,” read, according to the South China Morning Post. The Post reported that the group claimed to feel “heartbroken and helpless” in response to the violence Tuesday night.
“What happened on Tuesday is not perfect but it does not mean that the sit-in is officially terminated,” the letter continued. “What we need to do now is to look forward, to maintain confidence in ourselves and our peers, to reflect on our deeds, and to believe that we will perform better next time. … For the sake of the youngsters’ pursuit of freedom, democracy and human rights, please understand our difficulties.”
“Being stranded for three days, cancelled flights and forced changes of itinerary are not what you deserve, nor is this what we initially aspired to do,” the protesters wrote.
A group of protesters standing in the airport held up a poster with a similar message on Wednesday.
“Dear Tourists, we’re deeply sorry about what happened yesterday,” the poster read. “We were desperate and we made imperfect decisions. Please accept our apology.”
— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge) August 14, 2019
“Our actions have delayed your flights and disrupted your travel plans, for this we sincerely apologise,” another anonymous letter from the protest movement, posted to Hong Kong’s Reddit page, read.
The letter described protesting at the airport as the “safest choice” in light of violent attacks by police and pro-China mobs against protesters. “[T]o all those affected, we hope that you will stand with us in upholding the fundamental values of democracy and the rule of law, despite our actions inconveniencing your plans.”
Yet another letter from “a group of Hongkongers” apologized to travelers and thanked them for choosing to visit Hong Kong. “We regret if you have come across incidents where protesters may have appeared aggressive, and we apologise again for the inconvenience you might experience during our fight for freedom and democracy,” the letter read.
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
Singapore’s Straits Times noted that some social media posts went as far as to apologize to police on behalf of protesters that made it difficult on Tuesday for authorities to extract the suspected Chinese agents and bring them to the nearest hospital.
“To police who were affected last night, we will deeply reflect and confront our problems,” one of the statements read.
Peaceful protests prevented flights from leaving or arriving at the airport for two days in a row this week. Video footage from the airport showed increasingly tense exchanges between stressed travelers and protesters apologizing but firmly insisting that their protest was necessary to get the attention of the Hong Kong government. The protest turned violent, however, on Tuesday evening, when protesters identified a man they believed was posing as a protester to embarrass the movement. Protesters tied the man up and beat him, leaving him unconscious.
Protesters then tied up a second man, later identified as the Global Times’ Fu Guohao, a writer who wrote negative reports on the protest movement for the Communist Party publication. Fu was carrying a shirt reading “I love Hong Kong police” while allegedly conducting neutral reporting on the protest movement.
Protesters began searching for undercover Chinese agents in light of events this weekend in which Hong Kong police dressed in black and yellow construction hats – the typical protest movement uniform – infiltrated peaceful protests, beating and arresting protesters. Several reports revealed undercover police beating compliant protesters; on one occasion, such police were filmed forcing a protester to lie in a pool of his own blood, his face broken, repeatedly telling the police he would comply and there was no need to inflict more pain.
The Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, Beijing’s arm in the region, called the airport protests “terrorism.” The Global Times once again accused the United States and Taiwan of instigating the protests.
Before the airport violence on Tuesday, Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry, once again accused Washington of fabricating the protests to weaken the Chinese economy without evidence.
“The US denied on many occasions its involvement in the on-going violent incidents in Hong Kong. However, the comments from those members of the US congress have provided the world with new and powerful evidence on the country’s involvement,” Hua said, in response to remarks from Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and others. “By neglecting and distorting the truth, they whitewashed violent crimes as a struggle for human rights and freedom, and deliberately misinterpreted the work of Hong Kong police as violent repression when the police were only enforcing the law, fighting crimes and upholding social order.”