HONG KONG—Students and alumni from at least five Hong Kong schools formed human chains on Sept. 6 to raise awareness for the remaining four demands of protesters involved in months of demonstrations in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
The continuing act of defiance came two days after Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced that her government will be formally withdrawing an extradition bill that sparked the demonstrations. The proposed legislation would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China to stand trial.
Despite the hard-fought concession, some protesters have said they will continue their resistance because the government has committed to fulfilling only one of their five demands.
Protesters have taken up a new slogan, “Five key demands, not one less,” in response to Lam’s announcement. They also want an independent investigation into allegations of police brutality during the protests, the unconditional release of those detained, not labeling the protests as riots, and direct elections of the city’s leaders.
Hong Kong is a former British colony that was returned to China in 1997 under the so-called “one country, two systems” framework, which promised the territory certain democratic rights not afforded to the mainland. In recent years, however, some Hong Kong residents have accused Beijing of steadily eroding those freedoms.
Students in blue school dresses held hands-on Friday outside the Maryknoll Convent School, a Catholic girls’ school. They paired their uniforms with surgical masks, in the style of protesters who wear masks to conceal their identities and mitigate the effects of tear gas. Alumni from various schools and clad in protesters’ trademark black also joined similar chains in the district.
One young man dressed in a shirt bearing his school’s emblem held up a placard that said “Freedom.” Other young people handed out fliers at metro stations to push their cause. A group of two dozen black-clad youths were seen running around the busy Wan Chai commercial area shouting “Freedom for Hong Kong.”
A subway station was shut during the evening rush hour after demonstrators staged a protest there against alleged police violence. Medical workers also rallied at the office of the hospital authority.
Another group was gathering at a public park near Hong Kong’s legislative complex late Friday, while protesters have announced plans to target the airport on Saturday.
The unrest led ratings agency Fitch to cut Hong Kong’s credit rating on Friday, saying the turbulence has “inflicted long-lasting damage” to the territory’s image and that a degree of public discontent is likely to persist.
Fitch also cited Hong Kong’s growing integration with the mainland, saying that could erode its autonomy under the “one country, two systems” framework under which it returned to Chinese rule.
The demonstrations that began in June have become increasingly violent in recent weeks, with protesters throwing Molotov cocktails and police officers using tear gas, batons and water cannons. More than 1,000 people have been arrested.
While the extradition bill was the trigger for the movement, it has since shifted its target toward the police, who have been accused of using excessive force.
Lam on Wednesday said her government would not accept the other demands, and instead named two new members to an existing police watchdog agency investigating police conduct.
By Kin Cheung