In one of the protests at Hong Kong International Airport, a violent clash erupted between the demonstrators and police officers. The incident shocked many people as it was one of the most brutal conflicts between the two sides since the protests began a couple of months back.
What really happened
The protesters had surrounded two men from the mainland, tied them and beat them up. One person was a journalist from the Beijing-backed Global Times, while the other was suspected of being a security officer. The journalist was wearing a blue t-shirt that had the slogan “I Love Police,” the exact same outfit that was worn by pro-police supporters some time back.
Just a few days earlier, undercover police had attacked the demonstrators. As such, the fact that they were being watched by pro-Beijing people from the mainland apparently spooked the protesters so much that they ended up thrashing the two men. Soon though, Hong Kong police arrived at the airport and started firing pepper spray at the protesters, arresting five people.
The clash at the airport ended up triggering a large number of flight cancellations and thousands of people could not travel to or from Hong Kong as previously planned. It affected the reputation of Hong Kong. “This particular action is having [an] echo all over the world… It just simply doesn’t look good … It’s a very worrying situation for the businesses, or for the companies doing business in Hong Kong, and then for Hong Kong itself,” Davide De Rosa, Chairman of the European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, said to CNN.
Realizing that their violent actions at the airport were turning some people against the protests and also negatively affecting Hong Kong’s economy, a few demonstrators came back to the airport the following day with an apology. Protesters held up banners that stated that they were sorry about the incident and that they hoped the public would accept their apology. Beijing used the clash to spread propaganda that the protesters were violent and need to be “brought under control”.
“Beijing is looking for protesters to slip up, and this provides the perfect opportunity… The CCP likes to make heroes because heroes are really useful for propaganda purposes… We’re already seeing state media using the incident to undermine the protesters,” Adam Ni, a researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney, said to Al Jazeera.
The clashes between the police and protesters have worsened the city’s status as the transport hub of Asia. Data shows that the number of flight reservations to Hong Kong made by people outside of Taiwan and mainland China fell by 20 percent between mid-June and early August when compared to the same time last year.
“As long as it’s not more pricey to switch, I might change my flight to depart from Guangzhou… I’m really worried about whether a plane will fly from there without incident,” a college student who had booked a September ticket from Hong Kong to Canada, said to Nikkei Asian Review.
Between August 9 and 13, the protesters had engaged in a sit-in at the Hong Kong International Airport, a move that resulted in about 1,000 flights being canceled. The recent violent clash at the airport has only made people more wary of flying through Hong Kong.