HONG KONG PROTESTS:
Thousands of protesters shut down Hong Kong’s international airport Monday, defying an intensifying police crackdown, as China issued ominous warnings that described the protests as “terrorism” and began massing a paramilitary force in a southern border city.
HONG KONG — Thousands of protesters shut down Hong Kong’s international airport Monday, defying an intensifying police crackdown, as China issued ominous warnings that described the protests as “terrorism” and began massing a paramilitary force in a southern border city.
Some of the protesters who had been occupying the airport’s arrivals hall swarmed into the depart ures area Monday, prompting authorities to cancel all flights and advise travelers to leave one of the world’s busiest hubs.
The action came in response to a sharp increase in the level of force employed by Hong Kong’s embattled police. Hours before the airport shutdown, two police officers elsewhere in the city had pinned a black-clad demonstrator to the concrete, one officer’s knee pressing the young man’s face into a pool of his own blood.
“I’ve already been arrested,” the man yelled as he cried for help. “Don’t do this, I’m begging you.”
The scene, captured Sunday night by a cameraman from the Hong Kong Free Press, was jarring even in a city now accustomed to weekends awash with tear gas. It unleashed a fresh wave of anger toward Hong Kong’s police, and the government, spurring thousands of demonstrators to respond by occupying the airport.
Meanwhile, f ears mounted that Beijing would soon resort to military action to quell the protests in the semiautonomous territory. The nationalist Global Times tabloid tweeted a video showing Chinese armored personnel carriers heading toward the southern city of Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, ahead of what the paper called “large-scale exercises” by the People’s Armed Police, a paramilitary unit.
In the accompanying story, the newspaper elaborated: “The tasks and missions of the Armed Police include participating in dealing with rebellions, riots, serious violent and illegal incidents, terrorist attacks and other social security incidents.”
China’s state broadcaster, CCTV, issued a commentary Monday night headlined: “Alert! There are signs of terrorism on the streets of Hong Kong.”
Earlier, the Chinese government department responsible for Hong Kong held its third news conference in three weeks — having not held a briefing in the 22 years since Britain returned the territory to the mainland — to condemn the violence.
“The radical demonstrators in Hong Kong have repeatedly attacked police with extremely dangerous tools in recent days, which constitutes a serious violent crime, and now they are descending into terrorism,” said Yang Guang, a spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office in Beijing. It was the first time the office had portrayed the protests in Hong Kong as “terrorism.”
Protesters occupy the arrival hall of the Hong Kong International Airport during a demonstration on Monday. China issued warnings that described the protests as “terrorism.”