Police officers patrol the departure hall of Hong Kong International airport on Wednesday. Flights were departing the airport largely on schedule, a day after radical protesters caused chaos with a disruptive sit-in that paralyzed the international airport for two consecutive days. Photo: AFP

A Chinese mainland scholar cited the measures that the French government has adopted to deal with “yellow vest” protesters as one of the possible ways to confront black-clad rioters in Hong Kong, which means that if the protesters refuse to take off their masks, they would face a penalty of one year of imprisonment.    

Zhang Jian, director of the Institute for Hong Kong and Macao Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said at a press briefing on Thursday that a number of violent acts in Hong Kong in the past week, such as attacking police officers with molotov cocktails, can have serious consequences and that legal measures are needed to curb the situation. 

The Hong Kong regional government could consider measures similar to France’s response to the “yellow vest” protesters, Zhang said. 

Zou Pingxue, a Hong Kong Basic Law professor at Shenzhen University, said protesters’ acts such as attacking police, blocking the airport, forcing local residents to participate in protests and strikes, unlawful imprisonment and intentional injury, as well as insulting the Chinese national flag have violated several laws in Hong Kong.

Citing the recent riot at Hong Kong airport as an example, Zou said that according to the aviation security ordinance in Hong Kong, actions that lead to or may cause injury to others endanger airport security. Once prosecuted, those found guilty may face a penalty of up to life in prison. 

Protesters who brutally beat two mainland tourists at the airport on Tuesday night should be held legally responsible, and those who did not participate in violence and thought they only demonstrated at the airport and stopped others from entering and exiting the airport may also face prosecution for illegal assembly and violence, Zou said.

He noted that according to article 17 of the public security ordinance of Hong Kong, if a public assembly or procession violates legal restrictions, it may constitute an unauthorized assembly or a disturbance in a public place. If more than 12 persons gather and their acts have dangerous intent, they may be committing the crime of illegal assembly.