More than 800 school students attended a rally in pouring rain today, sending a defiant message to Hong Kong authorities that the months-long unrest would not calm down with the start of the new term.
Some showed up at Edinburgh Square in Central as early as 9.30am, having skipped school completely. Others streamed in at about noon after classes finished early on the first day.
“We came here on the first day of school because we want to show that we will not put a pause to the movement just because we have school,” said a Form Six student from Raimondi College, who only gave her name as Alice. “Students will still support the other protesters.”
Billy Chan, a Form Six pupil at St Paul’s College, said their action was different to others in the movement.
“There are only students here, so it can best represent the voices of young people. I hope adults in the city can listen to us, because any extradition laws passed will affect us the most,” Billy, 17, said.
Students at St Francis’ Canossian College in Wan Chai – where the city’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor attended school – also made their voices heard.
“Since we are so young, what we can do is very limited but boycotting classes is the best way to express ourselves,” said Kat, a 13-year-old student there. “We’re very disappointed in Carrie Lam and embarrassed to be her successors.”
The rally – organised by groups such as Demosisto, Demovanile and Anti-Foo – was postponed by 90 minutes to noon because of bad weather.
But schools also had their own concern groups, which organised protests near the campuses, some before school was due to start.
On Chai Wan Road, to the east of Hong Kong Island, pupils and alumni from three nearby secondary schools – Shau Kei Wan Government Secondary School, Shau Kei Wan East Government Secondary School, and Salesian English School – formed a human chain on the 650-metre slope leading up to the Eastern Highway.
Most wore black T-shirts over their uniforms, while some students volunteered to distribute food for those who had not had breakfast.
One of the organisers, a Form Four student at Shau Kei Wan Government Secondary School who would only give his name as Richard, estimated that some 500 pupils formed the human chain. But he still sounded pessimistic.
“Personally, I’m not too optimistic about the future of this extradition bill movement, because what we’re really up against is the central government,” he said.
Toby Chan Yin-tung, a Form Six student at Shau Kei Wan East Government Secondary School, was similarly not very hopeful, but added: “We won’t lose faith or else we’ll lose this battle.”
Heiley Leung Hei-yee, a Form three student at Shau Kei Wan Government Secondary School, who did not join the human chain, said: “I support what the students are fighting for, but I’m scared that the school will penalise me afterwards.”
She did not plan to take part in the class boycott later.
Riot police were seen at La Salle College, where the police force’s commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung went to school.
More than 50 students arrived earlier than usual to take part in a peaceful sit-in in the school’s chapel, while a group of alumni in black tops and masks distributed leaflets at the entrance. The alumni were supposed to join the sit-in on Monday morning but were refused entry.
Riot police arrived at 9.17am, saying they received complaints from residents in the neighbourhood. One former pupil had his bag searched and was asked for his ID. The alumni left around 10am.
At the rally in Central, a Form Three student surnamed Ho claimed that he was among the first to arrive around 9.30am, but not many of his peers were as enthusiastic about the cause as he was.
“Lots of students in our school pretend nothing has happened and won’t talk or do anything about the situation,” Ho said. “Those who have come out today are already prepared to face the risks. If we don’t use our voices, we may never have the chance to do so again.”
A booth run by nearly 60 social workers was providing counselling for pupils troubled by the recent violence.
One of them, Florence Cheung, said: “Many students may have heated arguments with their parents over the political controversy lately. We are here to listen and talk to them.”
Supporters of the movement also prepared 200 boxes of food – such as hamburgers, fries, pork chop buns and sandwiches – for the students.
Among them was Duff Li, who is in his 20s and works in the education sector. He said: “Lots of students are coming here hungry. Fighting for freedom and democracy is the responsibility of our generation but we’ve placed this burden on [the students].”
Isaac Cheng Ka-long, vice-chairman of Demosisto, condemned what he called a climate of fear created by police officers standing outside schools such as La Salle College and St Mary’s Canossian College on Monday morning.
“It takes an enormous amount of courage for students here to come out today. Many do so because of the unprecedented violence last weekend where officers beat up passengers in Prince Edward station,” he said, referring to police action to track down protesters on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, police have been handing out portable alarms to the children of officers amid online threats including hate speech and calls for attacks against them.
Police have also asked officers to report incidents of their children being bullied at school to the force’s staff relations branch.