Airport fights bring ugly side to world

Editorial | Mary Ma 15 Aug 2019

Hong Kong International Airport is in a de facto curfew after the Airport Authority obtained a temporary court injunction to ban protests.

The situation may have stabilized at Chek Lap Kok - one of the world's busiest aviation hubs - but it's far too early to say the crisis is over.

What happened inside the airport terminals the night before was scary. Video footage of the assault and seizure of two mainlanders by angry protesters have undoubtedly undermined the moral high ground of the anti-extradition bill movement.

If the protesters wanted to draw international attention to Hong Kong's situation, they've surely done it more than successfully - albeit not necessarily in the light they prefer.

Who were the two men held captive and attacked? State-owned Global Times confirmed that one was their reporter. Meanwhile, the mainland public security bureau has yet to reveal if the other was one of theirs, although the name printed on the man's identification papers reportedly matched that of an officer in Shenzhen.

They were accused of spying on protesters and, when caught, the reporter was questioned as to why he didn't show his credentials on the spot.

All this was irrelevant in the current case, for extrajudicial punishment is extrajudicial, and can't be justified. As soon as the two had their hands and feet tied and were roughed up, the attackers lost their moral foundation.

If protesters had been criticizing police for excessive and brutal force at MTR stations in Tai Koo and Kwai Fong while turning a blind eye to self-proclaimed patriotic gangs attacking protesters and pedestrians with rattan sticks and metal pipes in Yuen Long, North Point and Tsuen Wan, they're now making themselves the equal of those thugs after the ugly airport episode.

Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki and one of his pan-democratic peers apparently tried their best to stop the attacks on the individuals, but failed.

A contingent of police officers had to be called in to rescue the mainlanders. Meanwhile, one officer who fell behind his teammates had to draw his gun in warning to protect himself. The situation was just a wag of the finger away from tragedy.

US President Donald Trump made an intelligence leak - revealing that the mainland had been assembling military units at its border with Hong Kong. In another development, Global Times and People's Daily reported armed police headed to Shenzhen for a drill.

It was a warning by Trump - a warning to protesters - that contrary to speculation, Beijing may eventually send in the People's Liberation Army to gain control of the situation.

It also serves as a warning to Beijing that the United States is watching developments, closely monitoring every movement of China's armed forces.

Hong Kong is in an extremely delicate situation, and it's of the utmost urgency for all to lower the political temperatures.

Protesters must stop violence and return to peaceful exercise of their rights. As for Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, she must take concrete steps to ease the tension - if Hong Kong is to be saved from the dark abyss she's warned about.

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