Shocking scenes of anti-government protesters beating two mainland men accused of being infiltrators at the airport on Tuesday have sparked soul-searching amongst demonstrators, who questioned whether their action had undermined their cause.

They also apologised to the public for the chaos caused at one of the world’s busiest transport hubs, after demonstrations brought flights to a halt for two consecutive days and stranded thousands of visitors.

Dozens of protesters were seen bowing in apology at the arrival hall, holding signs such as “sorry for the inconvenience, HK is sick”, and “civil disobedience”.

In an open letter circulated online, they also apologised to tourists for delaying their trips during the past several days of airport occupations, saying protesters chose the airport as a forum for demonstration only because they no longer felt safe protesting in public due to police violence.

“It is not our intention to cause delays to your travels and we do not want to cause inconvenience to you,” the statement said. “We ask for your understanding and forgiveness as young people in Hong Kong continue to fight for freedom and democracy.”

Posters of protesters asking for forgiveness were also being shared online, with one saying they will learn from past mistakes.

While another poster read “Sorry for the unpleasant impression and for being so emotional”, it also said protesters were on a “hair-trigger” after undercover police officers arrested 15 people in Causeway Bay on Sunday.

Meanwhile, thousands of people also commented on a Facebook post by a journalist who got slightly injured while trying to prevent the mob from attacking one suspected mainland undercover officer. Most of the comments were apologies offered over the injuries the reporters received during the melee.

“I genuinely apologise for those protesters who have accidentally hurt you, and thanks a lot for the understanding,” one wrote.