Sat, Sep 27, 2014 - Page 1 News List

School pupils join democracy protests in HK

AFP, HONG KONG

Hundreds of secondary-school students yesterday attend a rally against Beijing’s election framework for Hong Kong, outside government headquarters in Hong Kong.

Photo: Reuters

More than 2,000 Hong Kong secondary-school pupils, some wearing uniforms, yesterday joined university students to bolster a days-long protest against Beijing’s refusal to grant the territory unfettered democracy.

Throngs of teenage students — many saying they had defied their parents’ wishes — descended on the Hong Kong government’s headquarters to add their voices to a class boycott started by university students on Monday.

Student groups are spearheading a civil disobedience campaign along with democracy activists in protest at Beijing’s announcement last month that it would vet who can stand for Hong Kong’s top post of chief executive at the next election.

University students rallied a crowd on Monday that organizers said was 13,000-strong on a campus in the north, breathing new life into a movement left stunned by Beijing’s hardline stance.

On Thursday night, more than 2,000 people took their protest to the residence of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英) with the hope of speaking to him. Leung has so far refused to speak to the students or meet their leaders.

Protests continued yesterday morning, with about 900 high-school students as young as 13 gathering outside government headquarters shouting: “I want real elections, not fake ones.”

“The government is ignoring our voices so I think that if we have so many secondary students boycotting the classes maybe then they will be willing to listen to us,” high-school student Agnes Yeung said.

Chung Chun-wai, 17, said many of his friends came out to protest despite being told not to do so by their parents, highlighting the often sharp generational divide in the former British colony over its political future.

“I think secondary-school students are a part of the society and I consider myself a citizen of Hong Kong. That’s why I think I need to bear the responsibility to care about the society and to voice out real opinions of Hong Kongers,” he said.

Organizers said about 3,000 people showed up at the secondary-school strike.

Meanwhile, about 300 people, mostly elderly retirees originally from mainland China, staged a counterprotest to support Beijing’s decision in neighboring Tamar Park, replacing students who had gathered there since Tuesday.

“All this talk of civil disobedience and Occupy Central will harm the city,” said Li Linglan, 65, as she held her granddaughter.

Occupy Central, a prominent grassroots pro-democracy group, has vowed to take over the territory’s Central financial district if its demand that Hong Kongers be allowed to nominate who can stand for leader is not met.

“After next week’s action we may not be able to change the standing committee’s decision immediately, but if we could have that very strong determination shown, I personally have the confidence that one day democracy will come to Hong Kong,” Occupy cofounder Benny Tai (戴耀廷) told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club yesterday.

Tai had previously hinted the takeover of Central could begin on Oct. 1, a national holiday when much of the district would be empty.

“I have confidence that we will have 10,000 people there,” he said.

Last month China said Hong Kongers would be allowed to vote for their leader for the first time in 2017, but that only two or three candidates approved by a pro-Beijing committee could stand.

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