Hong Kong protesters form massive human chain across the city

Hong Kong protesters form massive human chain across the city

hong kong human chian august 23
Protesters form a human chain along Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong on Aug 23, 2019. (Photo: AFP/ Lillian Suwanrumpha)

HONG KONG: Thousands of Hong Kong protesters on Friday night (Aug 23) chanted in unison as they linked hands to form a massive human chain across the city, taking inspiration from the Baltic Way demonstration 30 years ago.

The city's skyscraper-studded harbourfront, as well as several busy shopping districts, were lined with peaceful protesters, many wearing surgical masks to hide their identity and holding Hong Kong flags or mobile phones with lights shining.

In 1989, an estimated two million people formed a human chain that spanned more than 600km across Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in a protest against Soviet rule that became known as the Baltic Way or Baltic Chain.

Three decades on, the moving show of solidarity continues to inspire activists across the world.

The "Hong Kong Way" was called by the social media-driven protesters who have turned for the last several days to non-violent means of making their voice heard.

Protesters young and old chanted "Free Hong Kong" as well as the protest rallying cry "Hong Kong, add oil", while hand sanitiser was passed along the chains in the famously fastidious city.

'WE PLEAD THAT YOU WILL NOT LOOK AWAY'

"The Baltic Way brought the world’s attention to their cause and inspired following generations," the rally organisers said in a statement. "We plead that you will not look away at this crucial time. Stand with Hong Kong."

The human chain is the latest creative demonstration in nearly three months of rolling protests which have tipped Hong Kong into an unprecedented political crisis.

"I joined the Hong Kong Way because it’s peaceful," said protester Peter Cheung, 27. "This is the 30th anniversary of the Baltic Way. I hope there will be a bigger chance to make an international noise."

"We have tried traditional marches, we have tried more militant acts - although I don't agree with them - this time we are coming out together to join hands and show that we are all still united," said Wing, who gave only her first name.

"By doing this, we are showing people around the world the high quality of Hong Kongers. What people did 30 years ago, we can also do," said Cat Law, a logistics worker in her 60s.

READ: Skin in the game: Hong Kong protesters get inked

The protest, which included dozens shining lights from the top of Kowloon's Lion Rock, visible from the main island of Hong Kong, showed the apparent defiance of Hong Kong people after warnings from Communist Party leaders in Beijing and Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam about violence.

Police presence was thin and the protest ended promptly at 9pm (1300 GMT).

But protesters are also planning a "stress test" of the airport this weekend and some, wearing their traditional black garb, made their way from the nearby suburban town of Tung Chung on Friday night.

The Hong Kong protests, originally over a now-suspended extradition Bill to mainland China, have dragged on for three months and plunged Hong Kong into its deepest crisis since its British handover to Beijing in 1997, posing a major challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"Go to the airport by different means, including MTR, Airport Bus, Taxi, Bike and Private Car to increase pressure on airport transport," protest organisers wrote online.

Hong Kong's airport, one of the world's busiest, was forced to close temporarily last week and hundreds of flights were cancelled or rescheduled when protesters and police clashed.

READ: Chinese state media accuses Hong Kong train company MTR of aiding protesters

The Airport Authority published a half-page advertisement in major newspapers on Friday urging young people to "love Hong Kong" and said it opposed acts that "blocked and interfered with the operation of the airport". It said it would continue to work to maintain smooth operations.

Hong Kong's High Court on Friday extended an order restricting protesters at the city's international airport.

The order requires public demonstrations have the permission of authorities and is aimed at banning "those who want to deliberately obstruct or interfere with the normal use of the airport", said the court.

PROTESTERS GATHER IN KWAI FONG STATION

Later on Friday, protesters gathered inside Kwai Fong MTR station. They sprayed graffiti and damaged facilities, according to the police.

At about 10.30pm, the police warned they were going to enter the station.

"A large group of protestors are currently gathering inside the Kwai Fong MTR station. They have sprayed paint and caused damages to the facilities therein," said the police in a Facebook post.

"Such acts disturb the public peace and threaten the safety of the citizens, including reporters and MTR staff members, on the scene."

The police said they were responding to a report made by the MTR Corporation and would enter the station "to assist MTRC to handle the case".

Source: Agencies/aj/nc

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