(HONG KONG) — Flights resumed at the Hong Kong International Airport on Wednesday after two days of paralyzing protests that spiraled into violence and chaos.
Although the airport was open, authorities limited access to the main terminal to employees and ticketed passengers only. A few dozen demonstrators remained camped inside the arrivals terminal but the scene was quiet and calm compared to the previous night.
The Hong Kong International Airport, one of the world’s busiest and a major hub for the region, was forced to suspend check-in services and cancel hundreds of flights on Monday and Tuesday, as thousands of protesters stormed the terminals, held a sit-in and clashed with riot police.
Hong Kong’s airport authority said in a statement Wednesday that it has obtained an interim injunction to restrain individuals from “unlawfully and willfully obstructing or interfering with the proper use of Hong Kong International Airport.” The order also restricts people “from attending or participating in any demonstration or protest or public order event in the airport other than in the area designated by the Airport Authority,” according to the statement.
Hong Kong’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific Airways said 272 flights have been cancelled in the past two days, affecting more than 55,000 passengers. The company condemned the “disruptive behavior,” calling the actions of the protesters “unacceptable.”
“Not only do they seriously harm Hong Kong’s status as an international aviation hub, they also damage the reputation of Hong Kong as a whole,” Cathay Pacific Airways said in a statement Wednesday.
Protesters offered their apologies to travelers on Wednesday via posters and open letters circulating online.
“Dear tourists, we’re deeply sorry about what happened yesterday,” read one poster held by two young women in the arrivals terminal. “We were desperate and we made imperfect decisions. Please accept our apology.”
On Tuesday night, protesters “continuously hurled miscellaneous objects and aimed laser beams at police officers,” according to a statement from Hong Kong police, which said they condemned “such radical and violent acts.” Two officers were injured and sent to the hospital, police said.
At one point, a group of protesters swarmed around a man, who was apparently believed to be an undercover police officer, and zip-tied him to a luggage cart. Some people were seen attacking him while others were trying to shield him.
Police said the man fainted for a short period of time. Ultimately, medics arrived on the scene and carried him out of the airport. He was taken to a local hospital for treatment, police said.
Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of China’s state-owned nationalist newspaper Global Times, later said the man was one of his reporters.
Police said five people have been arrested in connection to the incident for offences including unlawful assembly, possession of offensive weapons, assaulting police officers and breaching of the peace.
Protesters began occupying Hong Kong’s international airport six days ago, but mass demonstrations have been happening in the streets of the semi-autonomous Chinese city since early June when hundreds of thousands of people peacefully marched against the government’s proposal to change an extradition law that would allow individuals to be sent to mainland China for trial.
The protests have become more confrontational and violent, with riot police using tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds at times to disperse the crowds.
Many of the demonstrators at the airport are wearing eye patches to show support for a woman who was reportedly shot in the face by a bean bag round fired by police on Sunday. There are unconfirmed reports she could lose her right eye as a result of the injury.
Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam has since suspended the controversial bill indefinitely. The protesters are now pressuring the government to, among other demands, formally withdraw the now-suspended bill from the legislative agenda and establish an independent commission to investigate police conduct in their handling of the demonstrations.
Sean Lavin, an American who was in Hong Kong on vacation, said he was surprised to see throngs of protesters at the airport when he and his travel companions were going through customs several days ago.
“It was something I’ve never experienced before,” Lavin told ABC News by telephone, adding that the protesters were “very polite” and helped them find their way out of the airport.
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