Protesters also detained and beat a second man whom they suspected of being an undercover agent. After emptying out his belongings, they found a blue T-shirt that has been worn by pro-Beijing supporters that they said was evidence he was a spy.
Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a tabloid published by the Communist Party’s People’s Daily, later said in a tweet that one man seized by protesters was a reporter. Hu Xijin regularly tweets on China’s international affairs, often citing authoritative sources without identifying them.
Calm eventually returned to the airport, with most of the protesters leaving the terminal hours after officers tried to enter. Protesters said they planned to return to the airport early on Wednesday.
Hong Kong’s Airport Authority said operations at the airport had been “seriously disrupted”.
China also rejected on Tuesday what it called a “wrongful statement” on Hong Kong by UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, saying it amounted to interference in its domestic affairs and sent “the wrong signal to violent criminal offenders”.
Earlier, Bachelet had urged Hong Kong to exercise restraint and investigate evidence of its forces firing tear gas at protesters in ways banned by international law.
China’s mission to the UN in Geneva said in a statement that Hong Kong protesters had smashed public facilities, paralysed the airport, blocked public transport and used lethal weapons, “showing a tendency of resorting to terrorism”.
“The Chinese central government firmly supports Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and the HK SAR government in discharging their duties in compliance with the law and supports the Hong Kong police force and judicial organs in enforcing the law decisively,” it said.
Earlier, protesters had severely crippled operations at Hong Kong’s international airport for a second day on Tuesday, forcing authorities to cancel all remaining flights out of the city after demonstrators took over the terminals as part of their push for democratic reforms.
After a brief respite early on Tuesday during which flights were able to take off and land, the airport authority announced check-in services for departing flights were suspended as of 4.30pm local time. Other departing flights that had completed the process would continue to operate.
Qantas flights to Hong Kong were among those cancelled. The airline said on its website it would contact affected passengers directly by SMS or email.
The Australian government’s Smartraveller website said the “intensified protests” at the airport resulted in significant disruption, including the cancellation of flights.
Hong Kong’s stockmarket fell to a seven-month low.
Ten weeks of increasingly violent clashes between police and protesters have roiled the Asian financial hub as thousands of residents chafe at a perceived erosion of freedoms and autonomy under Chinese rule.
“Take a minute to look at our city, our home,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said, her voice cracking, at a news conference in the government headquarters complex, which is fortified behind 1.8 metre-high water-filled barricades.
“Can we bear to push it into the abyss and see it smashed to pieces?”
China this week condemned some protesters for using dangerous tools to attack police, calling the clashes “sprouts of terrorism”. They present President Xi Jinping with one of his biggest challenges since he came to power in 2012.
Hong Kong legal experts say Beijing might be paving the way to use anti-terrorism laws to try to quell the demonstrations.