Thousands Form Human Protest Chain Amid Calls to 'Free Hong Kong!'
2019-08-23 -- Thousands of people formed a human chain in Hong Kong on Friday, as a peaceful form of protest against plans by the city's government to allow extradition to mainland China.
The protesters, dressed in ordinary clothes with no protective gear, showed up at subway stations across the city to shuffle into position ahead of the formation of the "Hong Kong Way," at 8.00 p.m. local time, marking the 30th anniversary of the 700-kilometer Baltic Way human chain, when about 2 million people formed a human chain that spanned over 600 kms (360 miles) across Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in protest against Soviet occupation.
While the chain left gaps wherever traffic needed to pass, it eventually stretched all the way from Tsuen Wan to Tsim Sha Tsui and Yau Tong on the Kowloon side, and from Kennedy Town to Chai Wan on Hong Kong Island.
Chanting "Go Hongkongers!" and "Reclaim Hong Kong! Revolution for our time!" the protesters also lit up their mobile phone flashlights, forming a long line of lights in the city landscape. Some cars and buses tooted their support as they drove past.
Protesters also held up placards in various languages calling on people to stand up for Hong Kong by supporting sanctions for human rights abusers and by putting pressure on governments around the world to support the city's call for democracy and a separate identity from mainland China.
Several posters called for support for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, a 2017 bill by Marco Rubio and Chris Smith, co-chairmen of Congressional Executive Commission on China that would "establish punitive measures against government officials in Hong Kong or mainland China who are responsible for suppressing basic freedoms in Hong Kong."
Part of the chain led along the top of Hong Kong's iconic Lion Rock, which overlooks Kowloon, and where protest slogans calling for fully democratic elections were hung as recently as last week.
'We want a response from the government.'
A participant who gave only a nickname Ming said he had come out in protest because the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam continues to ignore massive public resistance to planned amendments to the city's extradition laws.
"This is to let the whole world know that Hong Kong is very united," Ming said. "We have our demands, and we want a response from the government."
"We will continue to use different forms of protest to make our views known to the whole world, on every day that they fail to respond," he said. "None of us knows what's going to happen in future, but this is something we can do now."
A highschool student surnamed Lam said people want freedom and democracy for Hong Kong, where traditional freedoms and promised autonomy have been increasingly eroded during the 20 years since the city was handed over to Chinese rule.
"I can't not speak out, because that would be selfish," Lam said. "Hong Kong belongs to everyone; we are all Hongkongers. Hong Kong should be run by Hongkongers."
He rejected the ruling Chinese Communist Party's claims that the protests are being incited by hostile foreign forces trying to bring down its rule.
"Nobody is making these demands on our behalf," he said.
The human chain protest came as a judge extended an injunction on any form of protest or gathering in the main terminus area of Hong Kong International Airport. A group of activists had earlier planned to gather at the airport in protest.
Fired over Facebook posts
The city's High Court also approved an interim injunction restraining people "from unlawfully and willfully obstructing or interfering with the proper use of the stations and trains of the railway network (heavy rail and Light Rail) and the High Speed Rail West Kowloon Station."
The injunction effectively bans mass protests and sit-ins in public transit stations. The Mass Transit Rail (MTR) Corp. has also warned that it will shut down train services from stations where acts of violence or emergency situations have occurred.
Stations may be closed, and police would be allowed in to take suitable law enforcement action if necessary, government broadcaster RTHK reported.
Meanwhile, the head of the flight attendants' union at the Cathay Dragon airline, Rebecca Sy, has been fired after posting private messages to Facebook, with no reason given.
Sy told a news conference she was suddenly suspended from duty on Tuesday without warning just as she was about to board a flight to mainland China, then fired after confirming that three Facebook screenshots were in fact of posts that she had made.
Carol Ng, chairwoman of Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, said at least 14 people in the aviation industry have quit their jobs or have been dismissed because their involvement in the recent anti-extradition protests.
The anti-extradition protests that have gripped the city since early June are making five key demands of the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam: the formal withdrawal of planned amendments to extradition laws; an amnesty for arrested protesters; an end to the description of protesters as rioters; an independent inquiry into police abuse of power; and fully democratic elections.
Police have been widely criticized for not intervening during bloody attacks by men with links to triad criminal gangs on July 21, as well as the inappropriate and dangerous use of tear gas and rubber bullets since protests escalated in early June.
Reported by Wen Yuqing and Man Hoi-tsan for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
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