Police and protesters clashed at Hong Kong’s international airport on Tuesday after flights were disrupted for a second day as the political crisis in the former British colony deepened.
In Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump said the Chinese government was moving troops to the border with Hong Kong and he urged calm.
Trump said the situation in Hong Kong was tricky but he hoped it would work out for everybody, including China, and “for liberty” without anyone getting hurt or killed.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam warned that Hong Kong risked being “smashed to pieces”.
Demonstrators who have been protesting for the past nine weeks against Beijing’s growing influence in the special administrative region targeted the international airport for a second day on Tuesday.
Thousands of black-clad protesters jammed the terminal chanting, singing and waving banners.
Scuffles broke out in the evening after an injured man was held by a group of protesters. Some claimed he was an undercover mainland Chinese agent and initially refused to let him leave.
Medics, however, bundled him onto a stretcher and forced their way through jeering throngs to an ambulance.
Several police vehicles were blocked by protesters and riot police moved in amid chaotic scenes, using pepper spray to keep people back. A policeman pulled out a gun at one point.
Protesters also barricaded some passageways in the airport with luggage trolleys, metal barriers and other objects. Others clambered onto check-in counters as the protesters appeared to control part of the airport for a short while. At least two protesters were taken away by police.
Another mainland Chinese man was held and tied down by protesters at the airport after they thought he was posing as a reporter. The editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times newspaper, Hu Xijin, tweeted that the man was a journalist with the paper. He was later taken away by ambulance.
The situation calmed down after a few hours without the violence worsening, and the crowds thinned out. Hong Kong media reported that an injunction had been issued by a court to clear the airport of protesters.
The action followed an unprecedented shutdown of the airport on Monday. Hong Kong’s Airport Authority said operations had been “seriously disrupted” on Tuesday and departing passengers had been unable to reach immigration counters.
The weeks of protests began as opposition to a now-suspended bill that would have allowed suspects to be extradited to mainland China and have swelled into wider calls for democracy.
Demonstrators say they are fighting the erosion of the “one country, two systems” arrangement that enshrined some autonomy for Hong Kong since China took it back from Britain in 1997.
The increasingly violent clashes between police and protesters have roiled the Asian financial hub. Hong Kong’s stock market fell to a seven-month low on Tuesday.