Wearing black and holding up various signs, thousands of anti-extradition bill protesters gathered at Hong Kong International Airport – one of the busiest in the world – on Friday, taking their message to the hundreds of thousands of people flying in to the city.
The organisers said late on Friday that 15,000 people attended the protest, and 21,000, including 8,000 airport workers, signed a petition calling on the government to listen to the public's demands over the extradition bill controversy. Police put the airport protest turnout at 4,000.
Despite the protest, aviation officials said the airport was operating as normal.
What had started as a couple of hundred protesters in the afternoon had turned into a mass demonstration by late evening, with participants occupying most of the floor space across the two huge arrival halls.
The protesters displayed an array of tricks to catch the attention of visitors – signs, flyers and slogans, accusing the Hong Kong police of cooperating with gangsters.
They also set up a Lennon Wall and replayed video footage showing the policing of recent protests, which some say was heavy-handed, and the slow response of the police to Sunday’s attacks at Yuen Long MTR station.
One placard resembled a name sign held to greet visitors by hotel guides, with the words "Mr and Mrs Freedom", while another resembled a flights monitor and said "HK726", with the numbers denoting the protest date.
Some visitors were given posters with the map of Hong Kong on, with the spots where protests have taken place flagged up.
The visitors were also urged to help by sharing information about the protests and their demands on social media.
But some protesters said they also wanted to warn that Hong Kong is not a safe place to visit. Lisa, a student protester, said the attack in Yuen Long shows that the city has become a venue for "state sponsored terrorism".
"I'd like to say to the tourists, please don't come to Hong Kong. I say it because I love Hong Kong," she said.
Some of the visitors who stepped into the arrivals hall to be greeted by thousands chanting "Free Hong Kong" seemed pleasantly surprised by the peaceful protest.
A pilot who had just flown back into Hong Kong praised the protesters for their orderly conduct. "They are not blocking the exits, just sitting here and shouting, trying to get everyone's attention," he said.
But not all were pleased. One woman argued with a protester about how taxpayers' money is being wasted by the protesters.
A mainland tourist also shouted at the crowd, saying Hong Kong students were causing trouble for the city. He was separated from the protesters and escorted away by other people.
Some airport and airline workers who wanted to show solidarity with the protesters also joined the demonstration.
Lawmaker Jeremy Tam, who is also a pilot, took part in the rally. He read out a statement saying that a group of air traffic controllers have warned the airport authorities that they will not rule out taking non-cooperative action if the government continues to refuse the demands of the protesters.
The protest which started in the afternoon was to end by midnight.
Last updated: 2019-07-26 HKT 22:56