A spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing said the mob attacks on two mainlanders at Hong Kong International Airport on Tuesday night “almost amounted” to acts of terrorism.

In a statement, Xu Luying strongly condemned the act of the radical protesters, saying they had “critically endangered” the safety of two mainland residents, one of them a Global Times reporter. She said such behaviour was a serious breach of the law, crossed the bottom line of humanity and “sent shivers down people’s spine”.

She added that the mobsters’ behaviour had severely undermined Hong Kong’s international image and hurt the feelings of mainland people, and stressed they must be brought to justice.

She once again reiterated Beijing’s support for the Hong Kong police and the judiciary, saying those who broke the law must be punished.

A statement issued by the liaison office in Hong Kong likened the protesters to “terrorists”.

Demonstrators accused the two mainlanders of being spies or undercover police and stopped paramedics from taking them to the hospital. The Global Times later confirmed one of them was their reporter covering events at the airport.