Numbers at the airport have never risen above the low thousands, but there were calls for a million people to take to the terminal Monday in reaction to alleged police brutality.
While it seems highly unlikely numbers could reach close to a million, a substantial act of civil disobedience at the airport — one of the busiest in Asia — could potentially bring it to a standstill and return the city to the transport chaos seen earlier this month, when a general strike paralyzed flights, trains and caused repercussions beyond Hong Kong.
According to hospital authorities, at least nine people were injured in the violence Sunday, two seriously. In a statement, police commissioner Stephen Lo “expressed anger and severe condemnation against the reckless, violent and unlawful acts committed by the radical protestors.” Lo said the force “will strive to investigate all violent acts that have caused serious and even life-threatening injuries.”
Speaking to CNN at the airport Monday, Patsy Ko said the images from Sunday evening were the catalyst for her joining the protests there — her first time taking part in the anti-government demonstrations.
“It is really sad for the people who were injured, I could not sleep last night,” she said.
Public relations battle
As the unrest show no signs of stopping, and as a response to their demands from the Hong Kong government stays wanting, protesters have increasingly turned to the international community for potential relief.
In a statement Monday, Youngspiration, an opposition political party which has been heavily involved in the protests, called for sanctions against Lam and other top officials, echoing demands by others that the international community act on behalf of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement.
“Youngspiration hereby urge governments of the world and all freedom-loving people on Earth, to stand against China, the Enemy of Humanity, and its executioners, the Hong Kong Police Force and the incompetent Carrie Lam government,” it said.
At the airport over the weekend, leaflets in Chinese, English, French, Korean, Japanese and other languages were handed out to arriving international visitors, explaining the causes of the unrest — as protesters see it — and the demands of the opposition movement.
Businesses, both international and local, in Hong Kong have also faced pressure and accusations of acting in concert or sympathizing with the protesters. Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s flagship carrier and a major local employer, has been ordered by Chinese aviation authorities to ban staff who took part in protests from traveling to China.
By appealing to the international community, and making sure it is their message that most foreigners are seeing, protesters have shown themselves adept at public relations. Meanwhile despite carrying out regular press briefings, the Hong Kong government has at times appeared at a loss as to how to engage with residents and protesters.
Chinese officials have also appealed to Hong Kongers directly to condemn the violent protests, in an apparent attempt to split the movement. However advances have been undermined by continued forceful policing, with some local groups shouting police out of their neighborhoods over the weekend.
Opposition lawmaker Claudia Mo told CNN she expected a major reaction from protesters after Sunday’s violence.
“It’s like hitting a wall, the harder you hit it, the harder it will bounce back — that’s the logic of nature,” she said.
CNN’s Angus Watson and Justin Solomon contributed reporting.