Hong Kong Students Wear Masks to Graduation in Call For Full Democracy
2019-11-07 -- A university graduation ceremony at a top Hong Kong college ended early on Thursday after hundreds of people showed up wearing banned masks and chanting "Reclaim Hong Kong, Revolution in our Time!"
Several hundred of the 1,000 Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) students in formal gowns wore Guy Fawkes or other masks, in defiance of a hugely unpopular ban on masks under colonial-era emergency laws, and called on the government to meet the five demands of the protest movement, which include fully democratic elections.
As students held up banners displaying a black version of Hong Kong's bauhinia flag used by the five-month-old protest movement, a man was taken away by security guards after he sang the Chinese national anthem while pointing a knife at them.
One graduate told RFA that he had seen a Hong Kong student pushed to the ground by a student from mainland China after a dialogue between students and senior management on Wednesday, sparking a fist-fight between mainland and Hong Kong students who demanded that he apologize.
"The only thing that is going to resolve Hong Kong's problems is a fair, just, and democratic system," the graduating student said. "The problems of the evil mask law and extradition laws and of unrestrained police violence need to be solved at their roots, which lie in the political system."
CUHK said the ceremony was cut short after the degrees were handed out.
Vice chancellor Rocky Tuan told students to look to the future, now that they had graduated.
"Life goes on, so don't only focus on what's happening today, and don't be scared by the losses you suffer now," Tuan said. "And never be satisfied with the results you achieve today."
One still in hospital
At the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)'s graduation ceremony, a group of protesters held up photos of one of its students Chow Tsi-lok who was left critically injured in a fall from a multi-story carpark as he was running from police in Tseung Kwan O on Sunday.
HKUST president Wei Shyy told the ceremony that he will offer the student as much support as possible.
"One of our students is still in the hospital," Wei said. "I would like to say to his family that we are here for you."
The renewed protests came as a court in Kowloon found a 16-year-old boy guilty of possessing an "offensive weapon," namely a laser pointer typically used for presentations.
The magistrate sitting at the West Kowloon juvenile court said that while laser pointers aren't considered offensive weapons, the boy had intended to use the one he was carrying to shine in the eyes of police officers. He remains behind bars until he is sentenced on Nov. 25.
Vaguely worded charges
Government broadcaster RTHK quoted Democratic Party lawmaker James To as saying that the ruling could mean that courts are increasingly willing to sentence people for carrying everyday objects like laser pointers and umbrellas.
Prosecutors have charged protesters with vaguely worded public order charges in huge batches in recent months, while complaints of police violence lack an independent body with investigatory powers to hear them.
Last month, Lam's administration enacted a ban on the wearing of masks in public under colonial-era emergency legislation, which empowers the executive to implement any measures it sees fit, including censorship of news and publications.
The government on Thursday announced that only flowers and fast food would be sold at Hong Kong's Lunar New Year fairs, ruling out the sale of novelty items bearing political and satirical messages, usually a traditional part of celebrations and gift-giving.
"To safeguard public safety and public order ... only wet goods stalls for selling flowers will be provided," it said in an announcement on its website. "If circumstances at the venues permit, fast food stalls will also be provided."
Vow to continue
Chief executive Carrie Lam formally withdrew the hated amendments to the city's extradition laws last month, fulfilling the first of the protest movement's five demands.
But protesters say they will continue to protest until there has also been an amnesty for thousands of people arrested during the movement, the withdrawal of the official term 'rioting' to describe some gatherings, an independent inquiry into police violence against protesters, and fully democratic elections to the Legislative Council and for the post of chief executive.
Lam on Tuesday ruled out an amnesty for arrested protesters.
In recent weeks, protesters have also begun calling for the current Hong Kong police force to be disbanded, particularly after widespread reports of the sexual abuse and torture of detainees at the hands of police.
Police have fired thousands of rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters and arrested more than 2,300 people since June, many of them minors.
Reported by Lu Xi for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Lok-to for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
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