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Hong Kong protesters offer apologies, China doubles down after airport clash

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Hong Kong protesters offer apologies, China doubles down after airport clash

By Marius Zaharia and Joyce Zhou

 

2019-08-14T202547Z_1_LYNXNPEF7D1LM_RTROPTP_4_HONGKONG-PROTESTS.JPG

Anti-government demonstrators apologize for yesterday's clashes with police at the airport in Hong Kong China August 14, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

 

HONG KONG (Reuters) - China said on Wednesday Hong Kong's protest movement had reached "near terrorism" and more street clashes followed ugly scenes the previous day when protesters set upon men they suspected of being government sympathisers.

 

The United States said it was "deeply concerned" at news of Chinese paramilitary police movement near the border, urgedHong Kong's government to respect freedom of speech, and issued a travel advisory urging caution when visiting the city.

 

By nightfall, police and protesters were again facing off on the streets, with riot officers shooting tear gas almost immediately as their response to demonstrators toughens.

 

Ten weeks of increasingly violent confrontation between police and protesters have plunged Hong Kong into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

 

China’s Hong Kong Liaison office said on Wednesday that anti government protesters were no different to “terrorists”, following violent clashes between black clad protesters and riot police at Hong Kong’s international airport. Grace Lee reports.

 

Flights resumed on Wednesday amid heightened security at Hong Kong airport, one of the world's busiest. This followed two days of disruptions sparked by protesters swarming the airport, where, late on Tuesday, they detained two men they suspected opposed them.

 

China's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing called the behaviour at the airport no different to terrorism and said it must be severely punished.

"We're deeply sorry about what happened yesterday," read a banner held up by a group of a few dozen demonstrators in the airport arrivals hall in the morning.

 

"We were desperate and we made imperfect decisions. Please accept our apologies," the banner said.

 

In chaotic scenes that would once have been unthinkable for Hong Kong, a peaceful sit-in at the airport turned violent late on Tuesday as protesters confronted and held a man they believed was an undercover Chinese agent.

 

Busloads of riot police arrived in response, clashing with furious demonstrators before withdrawing once the man was removed, and leaving the terminal briefly in control of activists who then briefly detained a reporter from China's Global Times newspaper, a nationalistic tabloid run by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily.

 

It was not clear whether the scenes of violence might have eroded the broad support the movement has so far attracted inHong Kong, a major financial hub. The protests have also hit the city's faltering economy.

 

"We promise to reflect and to improve," protesters said in one message distributed on social media app Telegram.

 

"Sorry we were too reckless ... we are only afraid of losing your support to the whole movement due to our mistake, and that you give up on fighting."

 

There has been little sign of a letup in the protests, which began in opposition to a now-suspended bill that would have allowed the extradition of suspects for trial in mainland China, but have swelled into wider calls for democracy.

 

Hundreds attended a demonstration in the residential area of Sham Shui Po, where police arrived and quickly used tear gas after protesters pointed lasers at the police station.

 

'SWORD OF THE LAW'

China used its strongest language yet after Tuesday's incidents. The People's Daily called for "using the sword of the law" to restore order, and mainland social media users lauded the detained reporter as a hero.

 

The U.S. State Department called for restraint, and a spokeswoman warned that continued erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy put at risk the privileged status it enjoys under U.S. law.

 

Hong Kong returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that promised wide-ranging freedoms denied to citizens in mainland China, and it enjoys preferential U.S. treatment in trade and economics.

 

The U.S. spokeswoman reiterated a U.S. call for all sides to refrain from violence and said it was important for the HongKong government to respect "freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly" and for Beijing to adhere to its commitments.

 

Another U.S. official said Beijing had stationed large numbers of paramilitary People's Armed Police (PAP) "near and further out from Hong Kong," but there had been no sign they were moving towards the border.

 

The U.S. official said it appeared to be an effort to intimidate the protesters, but the protests had yet to reach a level that would compel Beijing to send them in.

 

The Global Times reported on Monday that People's Armed Police had been assembling in Shenzhen, a city bordering HongKong, "in advance of apparent large-scale exercises."

 

It cited video it had obtained showing numerous armoured personnel carriers (APCs), trucks and other vehicles on expressways heading in the direction of Shenzhen over the weekend. It noted that the role of the PAP was "dealing with rebellions, riots, serious violent and illegal incidents, terrorist attacks and other social security incidents."

 

Satellite images made available to Reuters on Wednesday from Maxar Technologies showed dozens of vehicles, including what appeared to be APCs, at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre across from Hong Kong.

 

On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been seeking a major deal to correct trade imbalances with China, described the Hong Kong situation as "tricky" but said he hoped it would work out for everybody, including China, and "for liberty" without anyone getting hurt or killed.

 

China has accused the United States of having a hand in the protests and has denied a request for two U.S. Navy warships to visit Hong Kong in the coming weeks, U.S. officials said.

 

France urged Hong Kong authorities to renew dialogue with protesters to find a peaceful solution.

 

AIRPORT REOPENED

At Hong Kong airport, which was designed by renowned British architect Norman Foster, blood, debris and signs of the scuffle were scrubbed away during the night, and cleaners and protesters themselves removed anti-government posters from the walls.

 

Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific Airways <0293.HK> said a total of 272 departures and arrivals had been cancelled because of the disturbances, affecting more than 55,000 passengers.

 

China's aviation regulator demanded last week that Cathay suspend personnel supporting protests in Hong Kong from staffing flights entering its airspace. On Wednesday, the carrier said it had fired two pilots.

 

Forward Keys, a flight data firm, said the crisis had driven a 4.7 percent fall in long-haul bookings to Hong Kong between June 16 and Aug. 9 compared with the same period last year.

 

"I think the local events clearly are having a profound impact, probably in ways that we haven’t necessarily clearly articulated yet," Charles Li, chief executive of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, told reporters on Wednesday.

 

Protesters vowed to press on.

 

"All the people here are very scared," Ann, a 21-year-old teacher, told Reuters at the airport as she carefully took down anti-government posters, folding them for re-use.

 

"But we are more scared that we do not have our freedoms anymore, and so that is why we continue our protests," she said.

 

"We feel that our ideas are bulletproof."

 

(Reporting by Felix Tam, Tom Westbrook, Donny Kwok, Clare Jim, Twinnie Siu, Noah Sin, Brenda Goh, Tom Peter, Joyce Zhou, Tyrone Siu and Lukas Job in Hong Kong, Andrew Galbraith in Shanghai, David Brunnstrom and Tim Ahmann in Washington and Mathieu Rosemain in Paris; writing by Farah Master and Tom Westbrook; editing by Tony Munroe, Darren Schuettler, Frances Kerry and Jonathan Oatis)

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2019-08-15
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11 minutes ago, webfact said:

China's aviation regulator demanded last week that Cathay suspend personnel supporting protests in Hong Kong from staffing flights entering its airspace

vile scumbags

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Authorities has the pics now, will soon be over .... AI face recognition software starting up ...

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Getting my popcorn; this is going to be interesting.

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Shenzhen, China just across the border. Satellite imagery shows Chinese military vehicles congregating near Hong Kong's border. From CNN

 

image.png.097847fd7d2a44f558539a5657f5e01b.png

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Yeah, they hid all the vehicles in the ShenZhen sports arena, wisely not wanting anyone to see them. I guess this was plan b, but they would be highly reluctant to send them into HK as it would seriously undermine investor confidence and add fire to an already hot blaze.

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, gunderhill said:

vile scumbags

What ???
The demonstrators are taking over the airport, and they are stopping flights entering and leaving Hong Kong. So, what about pilots and other staff, at Cathay Pacific, the ones who are joining in, with the protestors ?

Look, if I was flying to Hong Kong, or out of Hong Kong, using Cathay Pacific, well, I wouldn't feel safe or secure IF the people controlling the aeroplane are also trying to stop the flights. Yes, all staff who are supporting those who want to block the arport and flights, should be removed from their job.

So, if you are flying on Cathay Pacific, out of Hong Kong, you feel okay about the demonstrators trying to stop your flight ? You feel okay about the pilot, if he is part of the effort to stop your flight ?  You reckon that some people are vile scumbags ?  Can I say that, I don't think you're the sharpest tool in the box.

How about, you become part of whatever group that wants to boycott Cathay Pacific ? How about boycott Hong Kong ?  I mean, instead of the demonstrators having to block Hong Kong Airport, how about no tourists turn up there ? With nobody turning up at the airport, well, there's no need for the demonstrators to block flights, right ??

Edited by tonbridgebrit
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4 hours ago, khwaibah said:

Shenzhen, China just across the border. Satellite imagery shows Chinese military vehicles congregating near Hong Kong's border. From CNN

 

 

 

3 hours ago, keemapoot said:

Yeah, they hid all the vehicles in the ShenZhen sports arena, wisely not wanting anyone to see them. I guess this was plan b, but they would be highly reluctant to send them into HK as it would seriously undermine investor confidence and add fire to an already hot blaze.


I think we should be sensible here. Beijing can easily give orders for riot police in Hong Kong, to remove them kids at the airport. No need for Chinese soldiers in Shenzen to cross into Hong Kong, in order to remove them kids.

The media going on about satellite images showing a gathering of military vehicles near the Hong Kong border. They're simply trying to whip up a scary atmosphere, they're trying to demonize Beijing. That's what they're always trying to do.

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35 minutes ago, tonbridgebrit said:

 


I think we should be sensible here. Beijing can easily give orders for riot police in Hong Kong, to remove them kids at the airport. No need for Chinese soldiers in Shenzen to cross into Hong Kong, in order to remove them kids.

The media going on about satellite images showing a gathering of military vehicles near the Hong Kong border. They're simply trying to whip up a scary atmosphere, they're trying to demonize Beijing. That's what they're always trying to do.

There is some truth to what you say, but I doubt all those tanks and humvees were assembled in that stadium practicing for a monster truck demolition derby.

 

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1 hour ago, tonbridgebrit said:

What ???
The demonstrators are taking over the airport, and they are stopping flights entering and leaving Hong Kong. So, what about pilots and other staff, at Cathay Pacific, the ones who are joining in, with the protestors ?

Look, if I was flying to Hong Kong, or out of Hong Kong, using Cathay Pacific, well, I wouldn't feel safe or secure IF the people controlling the aeroplane are also trying to stop the flights. Yes, all staff who are supporting those who want to block the arport and flights, should be removed from their job.

So, if you are flying on Cathay Pacific, out of Hong Kong, you feel okay about the demonstrators trying to stop your flight ? You feel okay about the pilot, if he is part of the effort to stop your flight ?  You reckon that some people are vile scumbags ?  Can I say that, I don't think you're the sharpest tool in the box.

How about, you become part of whatever group that wants to boycott Cathay Pacific ? How about boycott Hong Kong ?  I mean, instead of the demonstrators having to block Hong Kong Airport, how about no tourists turn up there ? With nobody turning up at the airport, well, there's no need for the demonstrators to block flights, right ??

Wind it in pal, re  read it Im calling CHINA  vile  scumbags  for  putting pressure on Cathay Pacific

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1 hour ago, keemapoot said:

There is some truth to what you say, but I doubt all those tanks and humvees were assembled in that stadium practicing for a monster truck demolition derby.

 

 


Okay, IF Beijing orders soldiers in Shenzen to cross the border, and those soldiers are going to remove the kids at the airport, then yes, I think Beijing is doing something that is absurd. Beijing will be harming itself.

But we agree, right, that Beijing can very easily give orders for the riot police who are already at the airport, give THEM orders to remove the kids.  And yes, there's a huge difference between "riot police who are already there, removing the demonstrators, AND, mainland Chinese soldiers removing the demonstrators".

Riot police removing the demonstrators will harm Beijing's image, but Chinese soldiers doing it, will be catastrophic for Beijing's image. We have to bear in mind, the whole thing is a PR war, a public relations war.


And indeed, the people who are the "real power" behind these demonstrations, they've put these kids into the airport. The kids are the bait, will Beijing take the bait ? Will Beijing use it's soldiers to do a massacre at the airport ? If Beijing does, then yes, it means Beijing has taken the bait. A massacre at the airport, or a violant removal of the demonstrators, the real power behind all this will have achieved their goal. They will be allowed to say to the media "look, Beijing is a monster, Beijing has done this huge crime".

But Beijing are not stupid. The demonsrators have done their protest at the airport. Beijing has not taken the bait, the demonstrators know that they have just simply angered a load of foreign tourists and travellers. That's all they've done. They know that, and that's why, hopefully, they will leave the airport. They are actually leaving the airport. What have they achieved ? Very little, I think.

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52 minutes ago, gunderhill said:

Wind it in pal, re  read it Im calling CHINA  vile  scumbags  for  putting pressure on Cathay Pacific


Well, whether it's Beijing telling Cathay Pacific to do this, or Cathay themselves are doing it, I still think it's a good idea for "staff who want to stop flights leaving and entering Hong Kong, they should be removed".

I just simply won't feel safe, knowing that I'm on an aeroplane, and some of the staff controlling the plane are supporting those who want to stop the plane.

Anyway, the kids at the airport are leaving, and flights are going back to being normal. Let's hope that them demonstrators don't head back to the airport on Thursday. The small number of demonstrators that are still there, are trying to say "sorry" to the tourists ?


Okay, the nightmare scenario is this. The bulk of the demonstrators are going to say "we will be back, next week, and stop all flights for a couple of days, BUT, we're not going to tell you which two days we are going to be at the airport".  That really will be a nightmare. I mean, if you are travelling through Hong Kong, next week, so, they're going to stop flights for two days, but we don't know which two days. That means we have to avoid Hong Kong for the whole of next week, because we don't know which two days will have no flights.

And if they do this, every week, for four weeks, then what ??  Disaster.

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