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Satellite photos appear to show China's paramilitary vehicles near Hong Kong

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BEIJING — Satellite photos show what appear to be armored personnel carriers and other vehicles belonging to the China’s paramilitary People’s Armed Police parked in a sports complex in the city of Shenzhen, in what some have interpreted as a threat from Beijing to use increased force against pro-democracy protesters across the border in Hong Kong.

The pictures collected on Monday by Maxar’s WorldView show 500 or more vehicles sitting on and around the soccer stadium at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center just across the harbor from the Asian financial hub that has been rocked by more than two months of near-daily street demonstrations.

Hong Kong: Ten dramatic images from the airport protests and clashes with police

Hong Kong airport: Violence erupts as riot police clash with pro-democracy protesters

Flights at Hong Kong’s airport, one of the world’s busiest, were disrupted on Monday and Tuesday by a mass demonstration and occasional violence inside its terminal.

Chinese state media have said only that the Shenzhen exercises had been planned before hand and were not directly related to the unrest in Hong Kong, although they came shortly after the central government in Beijing said the protests were beginning to show the “sprouts of terrorism.”

President Donald Trump tweeted that U.S. intelligence believes that the Chinese government is moving troops to its border with Hong Kong and that, “Everyone should be calm and safe!”

Beijing has been apparently reluctant to send in police or army units from the mainland or to mobilize the People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong to quell the unrest. It’s seen as mindful of the devastating effect that would have both on the territory’s reputation as a safe and stable place to invest in, and as indication of the Communist Party’s failure to win over the hearts and minds of the city’s 7.3 million residents, 22 years after the former British colony was handed over to China.

Donald Trump: Calls Hong Kong protests ‘tough,’ ‘tricky’ but declines to warn Beijing

Hong Kong: Thousands of protesters shut down International Airport

It would also be a shocking reminder of the PLA’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square 30 years ago, which remains a taboo subject in China but is memorialized with a massive rally and march each year in Hong Kong.

Yet, mainland China is believed to have already dispatched officers to fortify the ranks of the Hong Kong police, and may also have planted decoys among the protesters in order to encourage more violent acts that could eventually turn ordinary Hong Kongers against the protest movement.

Such a change in sentiments does not yet appear to have happened despite rising violence surrounding protests and the shutdown of the city’s usually bustling international airport for two days after it was occupied by demonstrators.

Hong Kong: Business reputation takes hit with second day of airport chaos

Hong Kong protests: Police fire tear gas, rubber bullets

Police throw tear gas at protesters

Hong Kong police fired tear gas Wednesday at a group of pro-democracy protesters rallying outside a police station in a crowded urban neighborhood.

The protesters had gathered to burn “hell money” and incense as a way to show their opposition to the police during the month-long Hungry Ghost Festival, when offerings are made to ward off spirits of ancestors.

Police armed with riot shields and batons marched down streets in the blue-collar Sham Shui Po neighborhood. Officers carried warning flags and fired tear gas as they advanced, but protesters had already scrambled away.

Last week, the district was the scene of a protest against police after they arrested a university student leader for buying laser pointers, which police said were being used as a weapon against them.

Protesters at airport apologize

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Hong Kong’s airport has cancelled all remaining departing flights for the second day after protesters took over the terminals.
AP

Flights resumed at Hong Kong’s airport Wednesday after two days of disruptions marked by outbursts of violence that highlight the hardening positions of pro-democracy protesters and the authorities in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

About three dozen protesters remained camped in the airport’s arrivals area a day after a mass demonstration and frenzied mob violence forced more than 100 flight cancelations. Additional identification checks were in place, but check-in counters were open and flights appeared to be operating normally.

Protesters spread pamphlets and posters across the floor in a section of the terminal but were not impeding travelers. Online, they also circulated letters and promotional materials apologizing to travelers and the general public for inconveniences during the past five days of airport occupations.

“It is not our intention to cause delays to your travels and we do not want to cause inconvenience to you,” said an emailed statement from a group of protesters. “We ask for your understanding and forgiveness as young people in Hong Kong continue to fight for freedom and democracy.”

The airport’s management said it had obtained “an interim injunction to restrain persons from unlawfully and willfully obstructing or interfering” with airport operations. It said an area of the airport had been set aside for demonstrations, but no protests would be allowed outside the designated area.

The airport had closed check-in for remaining flights late Tuesday afternoon as protesters swarmed the terminal and blocked access to immigration for departing passengers. Those cancelations were in addition to 200 flights canceled on Monday.

The airport disruptions have escalated a summer of demonstrations aimed at what many Hong Kong residents see as an increasing erosion of the freedoms they were promised in 1997 when Communist Party-ruled mainland China took over what had been a British colony.

While Hong Kong’s crucial travel industry suffers major losses, the city’s reputation as a well-regulated center for finance is also taking a hit. Some 21 countries and regions have issued travel safety alerts for their citizens traveling to Hong Kong, saying protests have become more violent and unpredictable.

The demonstrators are demanding Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam step down and scrap proposed legislation under which some suspects could be sent to mainland China, where critics say they could face torture and unfair or politically charged trials.

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  • Pro-democracy protestors block the entrance to the airport terminals after a scuffle with police at Hong Kong's international airport on Aug. 13, 2019. Hundreds of flights were cancelled or suspended at Hong Kong's airport on Aug. 13, 2019 as pro-democracy protesters staged a second disruptive sit-in at the sprawling complex, defying warnings from the city's leader who said they were heading down a path of no return. The new protest came as Beijing sent further ominous signals that the 10 weeks of unrest must end, with state-run media showing videos of security forces gathering across the border.1 of 36
  • A Hong Kong policeman falls backwards as they scuffle with pro-democracy protesters during ongoing demonstrations at Hong Kong's International Airport on Aug. 13, 2019. 2 of 36
  • A man, who was suspected by protestors of being an undercover police officer, is surrounded by protesters at the Hong Kong International Airport during a demonstration on Aug. 13, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Pro-democracy protesters have continued rallies on the streets of Hong Kong against a controversial extradition bill since 9 June as the city plunged into crisis after waves of demonstrations and several violent clashes. Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam apologized for introducing the bill and declared it dead, however protesters have continued to draw large crowds with demands for Lam's resignation and the complete withdrawal of the bill.3 of 36
  • Riot police clash with anti-government protesters in Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok International Airport, Hong Kong, China on Aug. 13, 2019. Air passengers are facing a second day of disruption as most outbound flights from Hong Kong were again cancelled on 13 August as thousands of anti-government protesters occupied the airport terminal. Hong Kong has been gripped for weeks by mass protests, which began in June 2019 over a now-suspended extradition bill to China and have developed into an anti-government movement. 4 of 36
  • Protesters detain a man, who protesters claimed was a Chinese undercover agent during a demonstration at the Airport in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. Riot police clashed with pro-democracy protesters at Hong Kong's airport late Tuesday night, a chaotic end to a second day of demonstrations that caused mass flight cancellations at the Chinese city's busy transport hub.5 of 36
  • Medical staffs carry a detained man, who protesters claimed was a police officer from mainland China, during a demonstration at the Airport in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. 6 of 36
  • Protesters rally against a controversial extradition bill at Hong Kong's international airport on Aug. 10, 2019. Hong Kong pro-democracy activists kept up the pressure on authorities with a colorful family rally and a sit-in at the city's airport, as protests enter a third month.7 of 36
  • Protesters guard a barricade that they built as a driver prepares to turn around a double decker bus in the Tai Wai area of Hong Kong on August 10, 2019, during demonstrations against a controversial extradition bill. Police in Hong Kong fired tear gas on Aug. 10, 2019 at pro-democracy protesters who defied orders to cancel a rally and blocked intersections across the city in hit-and-run demonstrations. The new protests came after the city's leader warned she would grant no concessions to the demonstrators, whose movement is now in its third month.8 of 36
  • A protester uses a laser pointer as tear gas is fired by police in the Tai Wai area of Hong Kong on Aug.10, 2019, as protesters take part in demonstrations against a controversial extradition bill. Police in Hong Kong fired tear gas on Aug. 10, 2019 at pro-democracy protesters who defied orders to cancel a rally and blocked intersections across the city in hit-and-run demonstrations. The new protests came after the city's leader warned she would grant no concessions to the demonstrators, whose movement is now in its third month.9 of 36
  • Thousands take part in a second day of sit-in protest at the airport in Hong Kong on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019. Hong Kong is in its ninth week of demonstrations that began in response to a proposed extradition law but have expanded to include other grievances and demands for more democratic freedoms.10 of 36
  • A protester wears the words for Free Hong Kong on her legs as she stands over looking thousands taking part in a second day of sit-in protest at the airport in Hong Kong on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019. Hong Kong is in its ninth week of demonstrations that began in response to a proposed extradition law but have expanded to include other grievances and demands for more democratic freedoms. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung) ORG XMIT: XKC21311 of 36
  • Police detain a girl during a confrontation in Hong Kong on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019. Hong Kong is in its ninth week of demonstrations that began in response to a proposed extradition law but have expanded to include other grievances and demands for more democratic freedoms.12 of 36
  • Anti-government protesters during a rally in Tai Po, New Territories, Hong Kong, China,  Aug. 10, 2019. Hong Kong has been gripped for weeks by mass protests, which began in June 2019 over a now-suspended extradition bill to China and have developed into an anti-government movement. 13 of 36
  • Anti-government protesters set up barricades to block a road in Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong, China on Aug. 10, 2019. Hong Kong has been gripped for weeks by mass protests, which began in June 2019 over a now-suspended extradition bill to China and have developed into an anti-government movement.14 of 36
  • Traffic cones are seen left by anti-government protesters blocking the entrance to the cross harbor tunnel in Kowloon, Hong Kong, China on Aug. 10, 2019. Hong Kong has been gripped for weeks by mass protests, which began in June 2019 over a now-suspended extradition bill to China and have developed into an anti-government movement.15 of 36
  • People attend a march at Mong Kok district in Hong Kong on Aug. 3, 2019, in the latest opposition to a planned extradition law that has quickly evolved into a wider movement for democratic reforms. Anti-government protesters in Hong Kong kicked off a new mass rally on August 3 as they defy increasingly stern warnings from China over weeks-long unrest that has plunged the city into crisis. 16 of 36
  • Riot police shout warnings to protesters in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong on Aug. 3, 2019, in the latest opposition to a planned extradition law that has quickly evolved into a wider movement for democratic reforms. Anti-government protesters in Hong Kong erected barricades in a popular shopping district and blocked a major tunnel on the evening of  August 3, defying increasingly stern warnings from China over weeks-long unrest that has plunged the city into crisis.17 of 36
  • A protester throws back a tear gas canister during a confrontation with police in Hong Kong on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Hong Kong protesters removed a Chinese national flag from its pole and flung it into the city's iconic Victoria Harbour on Saturday, and police later fired tear gas at demonstrators after some of them vandalized a police station.18 of 36
  • Protesters burn cardboard to form a barrier as they confront with police in Hong Kong on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019.19 of 36
  • Police fire tear gas on protesters in Hong Kong on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019.20 of 36
  • A protester spray-paints a slogan on a wall during a demonstration in Hong Kong, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Hong Kong protesters ignored police warnings and streamed past the designated endpoint for a rally Saturday in the latest of a series of demonstrations targeting the government of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. 21 of 36
  • Police fire tear gas into a crowd in Wong Tai Sin district in Hong Kong on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. Protesters and authorities clashed in Hong Kong again on Saturday, as demonstrators removed a Chinese national flag from its pole and flung it into the city's iconic Victoria Harbour and police fired tear gas after some protesters vandalized a police station.22 of 36
  • Protesters hold umbrellas as they are enveloped by tear gas on a street during a demonstration against a controversial extradition bill in Hong Kong on July 28, 2019.23 of 36
  • Riot police fire tear gas during a demonstration in the area of Sheung Wan on July 28, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Pro-democracy protesters have continued weekly rallies on the streets of Hong Kong against a controversial extradition bill since 9 June as the city plunged into crisis after waves of demonstrations and several violent clashes. Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam apologized for introducing the bill and recently declared it dead, however protesters have continued to draw large crowds with demands for Lam's resignation and completely withdraw the bill.24 of 36
  • Anti-extradition bill protesters attend a rally against the police brutality in Hong Kong, China on July 28, 2019. Hong Kong has a new mass rally with demonstrators protesting against the police brutality on July 27 in Yuen Long, another mass protest was held and ended up with clashes between protesters and the police when riot police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowd. 25 of 36
  • A man looks at debris left behind by protesters in the area of Sheung Wan on July 28, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. 26 of 36
  • Anti-extradition bill protesters attend a rally against the police brutality in Hong Kong, China on July 28, 2019.27 of 36
  • Riot police arrest protesters taking part in a rally against the police brutality in Hong Kong, China on July 28, 2019. 28 of 36
  • Riot police arrest a protester taking part in a rally against the police brutality in Hong Kong, China on July 28, 2019. 29 of 36
  • Anti-extradition bill protesters attend a rally against the police brutality in Hong Kong, China on July 28, 2019.30 of 36
  • Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong attends a rally against the police brutality in Hong Kong, China on July 28, 2019. 31 of 36
  • Protesters carry U.S. flags and placards during a protest march in Hong Kong, Sunday, July 28, 2019. A sea of black-shirted protesters, some with bright yellow helmets and masks but many with just backpacks, marched down a major street in central Hong Kong on Sunday in the latest rally in what has become a summer of protest.32 of 36
  • Protesters march during a demonstration in Hong Kong on July 28, 2019.  Defiant pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong were readying for another big rally, a day after police fired rubber bullets and tear gas in the latest violent confrontation that has plunged the financial hub deeper into crisis. 33 of 36
  • Protesters are enveloped by tear gas let off by police during a demonstration against a controversial extradition bill in Hong Kong on July 28, 2019. Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters defied authorities to hold an unsanctioned march through Hong Kong, a day after riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse another illegal gathering, plunging the financial hub deeper into crisis.34 of 36
  • A protester is detained by police during a demonstration against a controversial extradition bill in Hong Kong on July 28, 2019.35 of 36
  • Riot police fire tear gas towards protesters in the district of Yuen Long on July 27, 2019 in Hong Kong, China.36 of 36

Lam has rejected calls for dialogue, saying Tuesday the protesters were threatening to push their home into an “abyss.”

In a statement Wednesday, the Chinese Cabinet’s liaison office in Hong Kong said the protesters had “entirely ruptured legal and moral bottom lines” and would face swift and severe repercussions under Hong Kong’s legal system.

“Their behavior shows extreme contempt for the law, seriously damages Hong Kong’s international image and deeply hurts the feelings of the broad masses of their mainland compatriots,” the statement said.

Most of the protesters left the airport Tuesday after officers armed with pepper spray and swinging batons tried to enter the terminal, fighting with demonstrators who barricaded entrances with luggage carts. Riot police clashed briefly with the demonstrators, leading to several injuries and prompting at least one officer to draw a handgun on his assailants.

The burst of violence included protesters beating up at least two men they suspected of being undercover Chinese agents. Airport security appeared unable to control the crowd, and paramedics later took both men away. Police have acknowledged using “decoy” officers, and some protesters over the weekend were seen being arrested by men dressed like demonstrators – in black and wearing face masks.

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times, identified one of the men as a journalist at the nationalistic Chinese tabloid.

“Fu Guohao, reporter of GT website is being seized by demonstrators at HK airport,” Hu wrote on his Twitter account. “I affirm this man being tied in this video is the reporter himself. He has no other task except for reporting.”

Protesters on Wednesday apologized that some of them had become “easily agitated and over-reacted.” On posters, the demonstrators said they have been “riddled with paranoia and rage” after discovering undercover police officers in their ranks.

Hong Kong police said they arrested five people for unlawful assembly, assaulting police officers and possessing weapons. More than 700 protesters have been arrested in total since early June, mostly men in their 20s and 30s, but also including women, teenagers and septuagenarians.

Associated Press video journalist Katie Tam contributed to this report.

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