Thousands of black-clad students yesterday rallied in central Hong Kong at the start of a two-week university boycott, piling pressure on the territory’s leaders to resolve months of increasingly violent anti-government protests that show no sign of easing.
Students have been the backbone of opposition to government plans to allow extraditions to China, a movement that has morphed into wider protests against the territory’s Beijing-backed unelected leadership.
Hundreds have been arrested in violent clashes with police, and an increasingly shrill Beijing has labelled protesters “terrorists,” with an editorial by China’s state news agency on Sunday warning “the end is coming.”
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) yesterday said that the protests had “gone beyond the scope of freedom of assembly and demonstration.”
“They have evolved into extreme acts of violence, seriously challenging the legal system and social order of Hong Kong,” he told a press conference.
Hong Kong enjoys freedoms unseen on the Chinese mainland under the “one country, two systems” banner inherited following the handover from Britain in 1997, but locals fear those rights are being eroded.
Yesterday, as universities reopened after the summer break, thousands of students skipped classes and gathered instead in central Hong Kong.
“Today is the first day of school, but I still want to come out,” a 19-year-old university student named Tommy said. “I don’t think we will miss anything. This is also a form of learning.”
Earlier yesterday, a call for a general strike went largely unheeded — but riot police patroled some subway stations after protesters briefly disrupted services during rush hour by preventing train doors from closing.
Elsewhere, secondary pupils formed human chains at schools and nurses carrying pro-democracy placards lined hospital corridors in flash protests to show support for the anti-government movement.
“Hong Kong is our home... We are the future of the city and have to take up responsibility to save it,” said a 17-year-old secondary-school student who gave her surname as Wong.
One nurse suggested the protest is doomed, because China will never allow the Hong Kong government to concede to protester demands.
“But we still have to stand and say something. At least we have shown the world what is happening,” she said, requesting anonymity.
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