A Hong Kong court on Wednesday ordered demonstrators to cease their protests at the city's airport and to stop interfering with passengers, forcing them to leave the premises except for specially-designated areas, airport officials said
A provisional injunction by the court banned people from "willfully and unlawfully" interfering with or obstructing the airport's normal functioning, according to a statement posted by the Airport Authority on its website.
One of the world’s main air-transport hubs, Hong Kong International Airport has since last Friday been swarmed by thousands of anti-government protesters who gathered there for a sit-in to draw international travelers’ attention to their home city’s ongoing political crisis and the alleged police brutality employed against demonstrators.
The protests led the airport authority to cancel all flights on Monday and suspend all check-in processes Tuesday afternoon, leaving hundreds of travelers stranded and frustrated.
With the injunction, the protesters are now confined to a designated area within the airport to stage protests. The scope of the legal action, however, is not yet clear.
“The interim injunction expressly provides that nothing in the interim injunction shall be construed as authorizing any demonstration, protest or public order event contrary to the Public Order Ordinance," the statement by the AA said.
"Persons are also restrained 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," it added.
The agency said that it was in the process of obtaining sealed copies of the interim injunction and will publish the documents once they were available.
Meanwhile, the airport began returning to normality on Wednesday morning with the number of canceled flights down to 60, according to the airport's website.
As a result of the injunction, the number of demonstrators at the terminal had also dropped to a meager 50 from thousands on the previous two days. The few dozens of protesters remaining on the premises had stayed there overnight following the tumult on the previous night that led to the arrest of five men.
The supposedly peaceful sit-in held on Tuesday gradually degenerated into vehement altercations after black-clad demonstrators started to occupy the departure area of Terminal 2 at around 4 pm local time, prompting the authority to suspend check-in for all flights.
Brawls broke out sporadically between some demonstrators and disgruntled travelers, who were angry that the former had blocked their paths with luggage trolleys.
At night, chaos erupted when some protesters besieged a man they suspected to be an undercover agent from mainland China. His hands were later tied up by protesters who surrounded him for about three hours.
Shortly before 11 pm, police arrived at the scene. At one point, a police officer took out his revolver and pointed the service weapon at a hostile crowd after he was surrounded and assaulted by a group of young men attempting to save a protester pinned to the ground by the officer.
After police used pepper spray to disperse protesters and after the alleged undercover agent was taken away by an ambulance, another mainland Chinese man was surrounded by protesters and zip-tied to a luggage cart.
The man was later identified as Fu Guohao, a reporter working for China’s state-run newspaper Global Times, which has been publishing editorials highly critical of the ongoing anti-government movement in Hong Kong.
Fu was taken away in an ambulance shortly after midnight.
Hong Kong is witnessing the 11th consecutive week of demonstrations that erupted in June, sparked by the government's controversial extradition bill that was later shelved by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam after coming under intense popular pressure.
The controversy surrounding the now-defunct extradition bill, which would have enabled fugitives to be transferred from Hong Kong to mainland China to stand trial under the latter's opaque legal system, has morphed into a set of wider demands for democracy in the ex-British colony.
Hong Kong passed to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, although it still retains a degree of independence from Beijing under the "one country, two systems" formula.
According to the handover deal between London and Beijing, this political system – which includes certain legal freedoms not recognized in mainland China – must be preserved until 2047.
But many protesters viewed the extradition bill – which was declared "dead" by the Hong Kong government in early July – as an attempt by China to meddle in Hong Kong's affairs. EFEEPA