NEWS
13/08/2019 17:47 BST | Updated 13/08/2019 17:55 BST

Hong Kong Protesters Take Suspected Undercover Police Officer Hostage During Violent Stand-Off Inside Airport

Social media posts reveal the scale of the stand-off, which has grounded flights for a second day.

Hong Kong airport has been described as “out of control” as the travel hub served as a battleground for protesters and police officers. 

For the second day running, disruptions have led to the cancellation of all outbound flights and social media posts from reporters on the scene reveal the scale of the violent protests.

One Twitter thread chronicles an “ugly confrontation” which saw a man being detained by a group of protestors.

It was initially suspected that he was an undercover police officer, but there were later claims he was a local journalist.

Sharing a picture of a man surrounded by protesters, cameras and a member of the emergency services, CNN producer James Grffiths wrote: “Ugly confrontation between a huge crowd of protesters and a man they believe is an undercover cop has been ongoing for over an hour now.

“Have zip tied the man’s hands and fighting over whether to move him. He’s collapsed twice.”

“Having bound him fear now is his ties are too tight and could cut off circulation,” he added in a second post. “Any attempt to change them causes more fights to break out among protesters.”

The man was then held on seats, Griffiths says, “as protestors increasingly argue amongst themselves about what to do next”.

“This is the most out of control, angry and just plain nasty I think I’ve ever seen a protest in Hong Kong,” he wrote.

“Unlike clashes with police, no matter how violent, this is hundreds vs one person, and a handful of paramedics desperately trying to help.”

The hostage was later released. The incident is one of many which have taken place at the airport, which usually handles international flights for over 100 airlines.

Another post shows protesters surrounding a policeman wearing riot gear and striking him with his own baton: 

Sky News footage from earlier in the day shows a failed attempt to quell the unrest, with police officers retreating to the safety of a van after being overwhelmed by the crowds: 

Reuters reports that the scenes spilled outside of the departure terminal building, with several vehicles being blocked. 

On Monday, more than 200 flights were cancelled and the airport was effectively shut down with no flights taking off or landing. Would-be passengers have been forced to seek accommodation in the city while airlines struggle to find other ways to get them to their destinations.

The airport disruptions are an escalation of a summer of demonstrations aimed at what many Hong Kong residents see as an increasing erosion of the freedoms they were promised in 1997 when Communist Party-ruled mainland China took over what had been a British colony.

The central government in Beijing has ominously characterised the current protest movement as something approaching “terrorism” that poses an “existential threat” to the local citizenry.

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Protesters held a sit-in rally near the departure gates

Meanwhile, paramilitary police have assembled across the border in the city of Shenzhen for exercises which some saw as a threat to increase force against the mostly young protesters who have turned out in their thousands over the past 10 weeks.

Police have arrested more than 700 protesters since early June and say they have infiltrated the ranks of the demonstrators, leading to concerns that officers were inciting violence.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the instability, chaos and violence have placed the city on a “path of no return”.

Thomas Peter / Reuters
Protesters and police clash at the entrance to the building 

The demonstrators have shown no sign of letting up on their campaign to force Lam’s administration to respond to their demands, including that she step down and entirely scrap proposed legislation under which some suspects could be sent to mainland China, where critics say they could face torture and unfair or politically charged trials.

Lam has rejected all calls for dialogue, part of what analysts say is a strategy to wear down the opposition through police action while prompting it to take more violent and extreme actions that will turn the Hong Kong public against the protest movement.

Adding to the protesters’ anger, Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways told employees in a memo that the carrier has a “zero tolerance” for employees joining “illegal protests” and warned violators could be fired.