CNN Correspondent Matt Rivers wrote on Wednesday evening, after the TV network recorded footage of People’s Armed Police at the stadium: “We can confirm the presence of a large number of Chinese paramilitary troops stationed at a sports complex in Shenzhen, just miles from the border with Hong Kong.”
There was no sign of military vehicles at the road border between Shenzhen and Hong Kong’s New Territories on Wednesday when this report’s author crossed.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce said it was “alarmed at the escalating violence in Hong Kong” and the impact on the city’s reputation as one of the world’s great cities.
But in a sign that the airport incident was unlikely to destroy public support for the protesters, the business group called on Carrie Lam’s government to respond to the protesters key demands.
“AustCham Hong Kong urges the Hong Kong government to formally withdraw the extradition bill, and supports calls for the appointment of an Independent Commission of Inquiry into the recent unrest, as a first step towards reconciling difference,” an Austcham statement said.
“Each day that this impasse continues, the risks and costs to both the government and people of Hong Kong increase. The chamber hopes that meaningful communications between the government and the wider community can be conducted in a way that recognises and addresses the concerns of all parties, focuses on peaceful resolution, and respects Hong Kong’s unique position.”
People arriving to Hong Kong’s international airport on the Airport Express train were closely screened on Wednesday.
Weary tourists waiting to learn when they could check in sat on the ground, slept on benches or slumped in office chairs that had been wheeled in as additional seating.
American Jim Cvancarso, whose flight to South Africa had been delayed a day earlier, said he understood why the protests were occurring and marvelled at the relative lack of damage to public property when compared to riots in the United States or Britain.
“These are sharp young people in Hong Kong,” he said.
Briton Mark Binge, travelling with his wife and daughters, had been unable to return home on a Virgin Atlantic flight Tuesday but said the protesters were “polite and apologetic”.
He noted the airport seemed “under control” with the extra security on Wednesday, and questioned why this could not have been done a day earlier.
The airport authority on Wednesday obtained a court injunction against public disturbances, but allowed a small number of protesters to remain in the arrivals hall.
Several pro-democracy legislators condemned the behaviour of protesters in the airport on Tuesday evening, where a mainland Chinese reporter was tied up by a mob and another mainland Chinese man beaten after being accused of being Chinese police. The Hong Kong Foreign Correspondent Club also condemned the attack on the Chinese journalist.
Police issued a stern warning at a press conference saying anyone who had blocked travellers at the airport may have broken the law, and violence leading to injury could result in a life sentence in jail.
Among the protesters who remained in a designated area of the arrivals hall, Jerry, wore a grey scarf across his face. He explained why up to 5000 protesters had converged on the airport on Monday to express anger that a female first aid volunteer had been shot in the eye by a suspected police bean bag round on Sunday.
“If we go to other places, we are attacked by the police. At the airport we won’t be attacked by the police,” he said.
The heavy use of tear gas by riot police on Sunday, including firing tear gas inside an MTR station, had been accepted by Carrie Lam’s government, he said. If tear gas was used to disperse protesters at the airport there would likely be consequences, he reasoned.
UN high commissioner for human rights Michele Bachelet has expressed concern at Hong Kong police tactics of firing tear gas into crowded, enclosed areas.
The masked protester, Jerry, said Hong Kong was ruled by the common law system, and if police flauted the law in their treatment of protesters, it was a serious blow to One Country, Two Systems.
The protesters released a statement apologising for the behaviour at the airport.
Kirsty Needham is China Correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.