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Scenes of protesters beating up two men go viral

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Airport re-opens but sense of unease continues

HONG KONG: When Hong Kong's airport reopened yesterday morning, the calm belied the violence just hours before, including shocking scenes of pro-democracy protesters beating two men which went viral.

The men were accused of being infiltrators and the beatings have sparked soul-searching within the movement over whether a minority of radicals are undermining their cause.

Debate has appeared on web forums used by protesters - and one group even issued an apology - after Tuesday night's chaotic scenes in which paranoia about undercover police reached new heights.

In separate instances during a paralysing occupation of the airport, two men found themselves at the mercy of a mob.

One was accused of being a mainland police officer and another of being a spy masquerading as a journalist.

Both were detained, had their limbs bound by zip-ties and were beaten until crowds of fellow demonstrators and firemen managed to usher them to waiting ambulances.

Mr Kwok Ka Ki, a pro-democracy lawmaker, was at the airport late on Tuesday after the crowds had zip-tied their second victim to a luggage cart.

It later transpired the man was working for the Chinese state-run and vociferously anti-protest tabloid the Global Times. Mr Kwok pleaded with the largely young protesters not to beat the man.

Within the protest movement, there was a palpable uneasiness over how Tuesday's violence had unfolded.

"After months of prolonged resistance, we are frightened, angry and exhausted. Some of us have become easily agitated and overreacted last night," one group said in a statement e-mailed to journalists.

"For this, we feel pained and dispirited and would like to express our most sincere apologies," the statement added.

The vast majority of Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters are university-educated, almost half are in their twenties and nearly everyone loathes the police, according to an academic survey that sheds new light on the movement. Exactly half considered themselves to be middle class, while 41 per cent said they were "grassroots".

When asked why they were demonstrating, 87 per cent said they wanted the extradition bill to be withdrawn, 95 per cent expressed dissatisfaction with police's handling of the protests and 92 per cent called for the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry.

A front-page commentary in the overseas edition of the Communist Party's official People's Daily newspaper said yesterday that using the "sword of the law to stop violence and restore order is overwhelmingly the most important and urgent task for Hong Kong".

US President Donald Trump said the Chinese government was moving troops to the border with Hong Kong and urged calm. He described events in Hong Kong as tricky but said he hoped it would work out for everybody, including China, and "for liberty" without anyone getting hurt or killed. - AFP, REUTERS