World

HK teens form chains to support protesters

Rows of students, alumni join hands, brandishing posters of five demands

HONG KONG: Hundreds of uniformed school students, many in masks, formed human chains across Hong Kong yesterday in support of pro-democracy protesters after another weekend of clashes in the city.

Metro stations reopened after some were closed on Sunday amid sometimes violent confrontations.

Yesterday, before school started, rows of students and alumni joined hands chanting, "Hong Kong people, come on!", which has become a rallying cry for the protest movement.

"The school-based human chain is the strongest showcase of how this protest is deep-rooted in society, so deep-rooted that it enters through the school students," said Mr Alan Leong, an alumnus of Wah Yan College in the Kowloon district.

Three months of protests over a now-withdrawn extradition Bill have evolved into a broader backlash against the government and greater calls for democracy.

Police said they had arrested 157 people over the previous three days, including 125 males and 32 females aged 14 to 63, bringing the total number of arrests to more than 1,300.

Hong Kong is facing its first recession in a decade as the protests scare off tourists and bite into retail sales in one of the world's most popular shopping destinations.

Tourist arrivals plunged 40 per cent in August year on year, said Mr Paul Chan, the city's Finance Secretary, with sustained clashes blocking roads and paralysing parts of the city. Disruptions at the city's international airport also hit the tourism industry.

"The most worrying thing is that the road ahead is not easily going to turn any better," Mr Chan said in his blog on Sunday, noting that some hotel room rates had plunged up to 70 per cent.

Some people started fires in the street and vandalised a metro station in the business district of Central on Sunday after thousands rallied peacefully at the US Consulate, calling for help in bringing democracy to Hong Kong.

The students, brandishing posters with the protesters' five demands, called on the authorities to respond to promises of freedom, human rights and rule of law, promised when Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997.

One of the five demands - to formally withdraw the extradition Bill - was announced last week by city leader Carrie Lam, but protesters are angry about her failure to call an independent inquiry into accusations of police brutality against demonstrators.

The other demands include the retraction of the word "riot" to describe demonstrations, the release of all those arrested and the right for Hong Kong people to choose their own leaders.

In a rare public appearance, Mrs Lam walked around with Transport and Housing Secretary Frank Chan and metro officials to inspect the damaged station. - REUTERS

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