Hong Kong students form human chains after chaotic night of clashes

HONG KONG, Kyodo - Hong Kong students formed human chains across the territory Monday in support of anti-government protests following clashes overnight that ended with subway stations trashed and police firing tear gas to disperse protesters.

Students from more than 100 secondary schools and their alumni, some wearing black and facemasks, chanted their grievances against the government as they held hands and stood surrounding their school campuses shortly before class, local media reported.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said last week that a controversial extradition bill that had spurred months of protests in the semiautonomous territory will be formally withdrawn next month when a new legislative year begins.

But protesters remain dissatisfied as the bill’s withdrawal is just one of the five demands they have been making against the government. The other four include an investigation into alleged police brutality during demonstrations and democratic reforms.

“Liberate Hong Kong! Revolution of our times!” “Five demands, not one less!” the protesters were seen chanting on Monday, while students from City University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Baptist University in the Kowloon Peninsula also formed a chain.

Also Monday, Lam and other city officials inspected some of the subway stations heavily vandalized Sunday following a peaceful demonstration calling on the United States to help defend Hong Kong people’s rights.

Speaking to local media after the tour that included a visit to Central MTR station in the central business district, Transport and Housing Secretary Frank Chan urged protesters to “respect other Hong Kong people’s rights” to use the subway and to stop vandalizing the transport facility.

The Hong Kong government, in a statement on Monday, condemned the behavior of radical protesters who vandalized the stations, while expressing regret over the introduction to U.S. Congress of a bill known as the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

“Foreign legislatures should not interfere in any form in the internal affairs” of Hong Kong, it said.

The subway has lately been a target of vandalism for its operator’s refusal to meet the protesters’ demand that it release security camera footage of a police crackdown on protesters inside one of its stations on Aug. 31.

The operator has promised to keep the footage for three years, but that promise was apparently not enough to stop the angry protesters.

Police clashes with protesters in both the shopping district of Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island and the densely populated Mong Kok area of Kowloon continued into late Sunday night, with riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, including bystanders and reporters.

Facing complaints of excessive use of force, a police spokesman insisted Monday that the force in the last three months has been “performing their very best” in maintaining Hong Kong’s law and order.

“Please be rest assured that everyone of our police force who is deployed on ground had received professional training concerning their deployment and duties,” spokesman Kong Wing-cheung said in a regular news briefing.

“In addition, our police clinical psychologist pays regular visits to our officers to ensure their psychological wellbeing, so we are confident that our officers could remain professional and disciplined during every single operation,” he said.

The police have arrested at least 157 people, aged 14 to 63, during protests over the weekend, for crimes including criminal damage, possession of weapon, fighting, assaulting police officer, resisting arrest and unlawful assembly.

At least 17 people were injured on Sunday alone, hospital figures showed.

A commentary issued by China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency late Sunday claimed that rioters have taken all Hong Kong people hostage in pursuit of their own interests, urging the “silent majority” to stand up and “clearly say no to violence.”

“No excuses could glorify violence. If the situation continues, Hong Kong society will have to pay a bigger and heavier price. The rule of law must be upheld and society needs stability. No one hopes to see a chaotic and disorderly Hong Kong,” it said.

Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, has called for cooler heads from both sides to prevail.

“This is the biggest impact facing Hong Kong in many, many years since the Second World War,” Li said in reference to the months-long unrest while attending a religious event Sunday, according to a video clip posted on Apple Daily.

“I hope Hong Kong people get through this, young people can understand the big picture and the rulers also can be lenient toward the masters of the future,” he said.(Kyodo)

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