Nearly a thousand alumni and students across Hong Kong added their voices to a citywide protest on Friday, as demonstrators called on the government to meet all their demands and not just withdraw the extradition bill.
They formed human chains outside schools in Kowloon Tong, Tai Po and on Hong Kong Island, and asked other students to join them to put pressure on Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s administration.
Protesters want an independent investigation into the use of force by police, an amnesty for arrested protesters, a halt to categorising the protests as riots, and the implementation of universal suffrage.
Their show of defiance continued despite Lam’s announcement on Wednesday that she would formally withdraw the extradition bill that has sparked months of protests in the city.
But, with Lam only acceding to one of the demonstrators’ five demands, protesters, and politicians from both sides of the divide have said the move was too little, too late.
In Kowloon Tong, more than 500 men and women wearing masks and dark clothes lined the walls surrounding the neighbourhood’s elite schools, La Salle College, Bishop Hall Jubilee School, Jockey Club Government Secondary School, and Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Wong Fut Nam College.
The demonstrators, most of whom were alumni, chanted school anthems and popular anti-government cheers, such as “there are no rioters, only a tyrannical regime,” and “Hongkongers, add oil.”
Some students in school uniforms also joined the effort to form a human chain.
The rally extended about 700 metres on the narrow, tree-lined pavement around two blocks, situated in an otherwise quiet middle-class neighbourhood with low-rise residential buildings.
“Even though Lam announced she would withdraw the bill, the decision should have come three months earlier. I hope she will respond to more of our demands,” said one La Salle College graduate, who wished to remain nameless.
More than 70 students skipped classes on Monday and Tuesday, according to Chan, a member of the school’s student concern group, who would only give his last name.
Despite the that the Education Bureau did not want to see a school boycott, education minister Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said he would leave it to schools to handle the matter themselves according to their own judgment. Many schools allow students to skip classes if they have the permission letters from parents.
Chan, a Form Five student at La Salle, said the turnout was bigger than expected. The school had the largest crowd of the four schools, with more than 300 people involved.
Meanwhile, a handful of teachers stood at the gate of each of the schools, watching in silence.
“The students are (showing) restraint and (being) peaceful, so I’m not too worried that anything radical would happen,” said Andrew Lau, deputy principal of Bishop Hall Jubilee School.
“What I’m worried about is that the government has lost the heart of a generation of young people, and they would walk further away from the government.”
Teachers at the school were opposed to the strike, and the pupils had been largely obedient, Lau said, who added that there was no class boycott at the school.
Diocesan Boys’ School (DBS) Diocesan Boys’ School (DBS) in Mong Kok also saw about 500 students and alumni join the city-wide human chain activity. The activity began at the bottom of the school’s driveway on Argyle Street. The chain extended from the Argyle Street entrance, through the school, and reached the other entrance on Prince Edward Road West.
In a video that an alumnus sent Young Post, many pupils can be heard chanting: “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times!” The DBS alumnus said that he wanted to support the current students at the school, and let them know that the old boys have got their backs.“A lot of the current students might be scared to express their opinions, because their parents might be working for the government, or are with the police force. However, they really shouldn’t be scared to use peaceful means to fight for what they want,” he told Young Post.
The violence that broke out outside the government complex on June 12 triggered him to participate in the recent anti-extradition bill movement. “Most of my friends and I agree that the police brutality is even more evil than the bill itself,” he said. “Therefore, in my opinion, out of the five demands, setting up an independent commission of inquiry would be of the utmost importance.”
In Tai Po, more than 300 people, including students and alumni from seven secondary schools, and residents and pupils from neighbouring schools, formed a human chain stretching across Tat Wan Road.
According to the students, 100 students from Kau Yan College when on strike on Monday, and 20 from Law Ting Pong Secondary School went on strike on Thursday.
“Taking part is the only thing I can do as a secondary school student to call for the government to meet the five demands,” said a 17 year-old Form Six student at Law Ting Pong Secondary School, who gave his name as Anson.
Protesters chanted popular slogans such as “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” and “return the eye”, referring to a young woman who suffered a severe eye injury during a violent protest in August.
The crowd gathered at Tai Po MTR station around 6.45am and left just before 8am so pupils could go to class on time.
“We can’t go on the front lines, but we can still yell slogans and show others that many secondary school pupils are aware of the protests and are also fighting for the five demands,” said a 16 year-old Form Six student from neighbouring Kau Yan College surnamed Ng.
“There have been months of protests and so many injured. If Lam withdrew the bill earlier then the problem would have been solved,” she said. “But we have already gone through so much, such as the Yuen Long incident and police brutality. We cannot stop unless all our demands are met.”
While some passers-by cheered the protesters on, others were angry about the disruption.
“This is a public space. I have my own freedom to enjoy a peaceful and quiet walk down the street,” said a 53 year-old retired Tai Po resident surnamed Leung.
Leung believes politics should not be brought into schools: “The students are still living under their parent’s’ roof, they should fulfil their responsibility and go to school,” he said.
Hong Kong Island
Students and alumni from various schools on Hong Kong Island also held various demonstrations in the form of human chains or peaceful gatherings.
More than 100 members of St Paul’s Convent School alumni and some school students gathered outside the entrance in Causeway Bay in a show of defiance after teachers prevented a boycott on September 2.
At about 7.30am, alumni formed two long lines outside the school’s gates and handed out ribbons to passers-by and held up fliers in support of current students.
According to students, the teachers also stopped a planned panel discussion about the extradition bill, and did not allow students to form a human chain.
“We think it’s really ridiculous that they banned the girls from wearing masks and ribbons,” said Sharon Lam, 21, one of the coordinators of the demonstration, and an ex-student of the school.
“The school gave ‘political reasons’ for the move.”.
According to Lam, Sister Margaret Wong, the school principal, told the students they were “blind rebellion spirits” for planning a class boycott.
“While I understand that teachers want to preserve the school’s reputation, I was disappointed when they asked us to cancel our planned activities,” said a 17-year-old student, who wished to remain anonymous.
“I hope the school can hear our voices and will let us say something regarding what is happening in society.”
During the demonstrations, the school issued a “special notice” on their website reiterating that they did not support a school strike, as the school was “a place to study”.
However, the statement said if a student did want to strike, they must “submit a parent letter in accordance with the school’s rules”.
Some 200 students and alumni at Canossa College built a human chain outside their school in Quarry Bay. The chain was around 100m long and extended from the school gate to Hoi Chak Street. Most participants were wearing black masks and white ribbons.
S.K.H. Lui Ming Choi Secondary School in Waterfall Bay on South Island formed a human chain with two of its neighbouring schools, Pui Ying Secondary School and Caritas Chong Yuet Ming Secondary School this morning as well.
An organiser, Wong, told Young Post that about 360 students and alumni took part, with the majority coming from S.K.H. Lui Ming Choi Secondary School.
The chain stretched from one end of Wah Fu Road outside S.K.H. Lui Ming Choi Secondary School, to an intersection between Wah Fu Road and Waterfall Bay Road outside Caritas Chong Yuet Ming Secondary School.
The activity started at 07:35 am and ended at 07:55 am, after organisers counted the number of partakers. Members of the chain chanted the usual slogans such as: “Five demands, not one less” and “There’s no rioter, but only tyranny!”
Meanwhile, pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu has formed a concern group to monitor the schools suspected of supporting the boycott.
He called on the Education Bureau to disqualify those principals and teachers who supported the boycott, and said their approval exceeded the educational and moral ethics for educators.