Students from more than 20 secondary schools formed a human chain in Tuen Mun on Thursday from 5pm. Their aim was to voice their discontentment towards the government and to urge the MTR to release CCTV footage from Prince Edward station on August 31.
A lot of Tuen Mun residents and people walked alongside the students as the chain meandered through the New Territories district. The chain stretched out along Tuen Mun River, from close to residential housing Lung Mun Oasis to Hung Kiu, stretching about 2 kilometres.
Most of the participants were from schools in Tuen Mun, including Shun Tak Fraternal Association (STFA) Tam Pak Yu College, Tuen Mun Government Secondary School, NLSI Peace Evangelical Secondary School, Lui Cheung Kwong Lutheran College, and Ching Chung Hau Po Woon Secondary School. Most of them wore black masks and their school uniforms, and many brought signs to the event.
A Tuen Mun Catholic Secondary School student surnamed Lau, 17, was one of them. The Form Six student's two signs featured two lines from the new protest song Glory to Hong Kong, which has been regarded by many as Hong Kong's “national anthem”. The signs read, “May democracy and freedom never die” and “I wish Hong Kong glory and light.”
“I think these two lines capture the essence of the song, and they are my favourite lines," Lau said. "Democracy and freedom are what we've been trying to safeguard. I also hope there'll be no more injustice, and that light will eventually come to our city.”
Lau, who has been taking part in the anti-extradition bill movement since the end of May, said she used to support the movement because she wanted to defend the city's independent judicial system, as well as Hongkongers' freedom and rights.
But as the movement developed, she began to think that it was also about not allowing “the police, who claim to protect the rule of law, to continue to have overriding power over the rule of law.
“I'm so disappointed with the [police] because of their inappropriate and excessive use of force, as well as their unnecessary charges against some protesters,” she said. “They were also extremely cruel for not allowing ambulance workers to enter Prince Edward Station on August 31 to help injured protesters.”
“All demands must be responded by the government, not one less,” said another student participant, from Ho Ngai College (Sponsored By Sik Sik Yuen), surnamed Yeung.
“It's unacceptable that the police have all the power now,”' added the Form Six student. “They are the ones who beat and arrest protesters, but also the ones who are in charge of investigating alleged police brutality.”
The 18-year-old, who claimed to be the only representative from her school, also told Young Post she was one of the few students who has shown support for the movement in school.
“My school wouldn't allow us to express our support on campus because there are a lot of mainland migrant students,” said Yeung. “In today's morning assembly, they tried to dissuade us from joining this event, claiming it would be dangerous.”
Yeung dismissed her school's claims, and said she had the freedom to decide how to spend her time after school. “Even if I am the only one from my school who is at this event, I’d still come … to encourage more students to speak out,” she added.
Some students volunteered to help direct participants to different sections of the chain, to make sure there were no gaps in the chain.
Mo, a 16-year-old student, who didn’t wish to reveal his full name, was one of them. He told Young Post that of the remaining four demands, he personally felt most strongly about the retraction of the characterisation of “rioters”.
“I was there on June 12, when protesters surrounded the government complex,” the Church of Christ in China Tam Lee Lai Fun Memorial Secondary School student said. “Most of the people there were not violent and we didn’t even have any [protection]. We faced an excessive amount of tear gas and rubber bullets, yet [Carrie Lam] called us rioters.”
The 612 incident, as it is known, was a turning point for Mo who began to participate in the movement more. He decided to peacefully educate people at his school about the current issues. However he, along with other like-minded students, met with difficulties - especially in a district where many mainland immigrants live.
“One time, we were passing out leaflets near our school to other students, and someone with a mainland accent from the neighbourhood shouted, ‘Cockroaches, rioters!’ at us in Cantonese,” Mo said.
At school, Mo said a teacher with different political views to his told Mo and his friends that they had been brainwashed, and that they were now trying to brainwash other students. They reported the incident to the school, and the teacher later apologised.
As well as handing out leaflets, students have also thought of other peaceful ways to get involved in the movement.
Ken, a 16-year-old student who didn’t wish to give his last name, offered free hugs to participants. He decided to take part in the event even though he goes to a school in Ho Man Tin in Kowloon.
“I know a lot of Hongkongers are under tremendous pressure. Frontline protesters might be scared of being arrested, and other protesters might get into arguments with their families because of their different stances ... everyone seems so stressed.”
Seeing that, Ken said he has offered free hugs at almost every human chain activity that he has been able to attend, and will continue to do so until the movement comes to an end.
“One time, I was at the airport and a young woman came over. I could feel that she was shaking and on the verge of crying ... it broke my heart,” Ken recalled.
“If you’re too stressed, it’s totally fine to take a break,” he added.
While speaking to Young Post, a woman ran to him and stuck a sticker that read, “Add oil” on his shirt. Ken said he had only joined the movement in late July. Before that, although he was against the now-withdrawn extradition bill, he always thought someone else would fight the fight. But as conflicts intensified, he started to feel bad that others were protesting for something that he also wanted.
“Compared to what frontline protesters have done and are doing, I’m doing so little,” he said. “Now I’ve finally realised there’s no reason for me to not come out [too].”