HONG KONG (Dispatches) -- China reacted furiously Wednesday to "terrorist-like" attacks on its citizens by rioters during a second day of mass disruptions at Hong Kong's airport that turned violent.
The rallies, which had paralyzed one of the world's busiest travel hubs, ended with ugly clashes on Tuesday night that included protesters beating two men.
The Chinese government immediately seized on the attacks to louden its drumbeat of anger and intimidation against the protesters, who have staged 10 weeks of relentless rallies to demand greater freedoms.
"We express the strongest condemnation of these terrorist-like actions," said Xu Luying, spokeswoman at the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs of the State Council, who called the two men who were beaten "mainland China compatriots."
China on Monday said there were signs of "terrorism emerging", as state media published a video of armored personnel carriers driving towards the border with Hong Kong.
The beating of the two men at the airport on Tuesday, as well as the blocking of passengers from boarding flights could backfire in terms of maintaining support.
The movement has no public leaders, with protests organized anonymously over social media and chat apps.
Demonstrators turned on the two men, fuelled by suspicions within their ranks about undercover police or spies.
The first man was held for about two hours and assaulted before eventually being led away in an ambulance.
Riot police briefly deployed pepper spray and batons to beat back rioters while they escorted the vehicle away from the departures hall.
Another man, wearing a yellow journalist vest, was surrounded, zip-tied and then beaten by a small group who accused him of being a spy.
In a tweet, Hu Xijun, the editor of China's state-controlled Global Times tabloid -- which has vociferously condemned the protests -- said the man was a journalist for the paper.
In another ugly scene, a group of rioters ganged up on a policeman and beat him. They stopped their attack when the policeman pulled his gun and pointed it at them, but did not fire.
On Wednesday there were only a handful of rioterss at the airport and many flights were operating as scheduled.
On Tuesday morning, the city's leader, Carrie Lam, gave an at-times emotional press conference in which she warned of dangerous consequences if escalating violence was not curbed and said the hub was being "pushed into an abyss."