Hong Kong protesters form human chains ‘up to 40km long’

Pro-democracy demonstrators take inspiration from activists in Baltic states 30 years ago

 Protesters hold hands and wave the light from their phones as they participate in the ‘Hong Kong Way’, at Tsim Sha Tsui, in Hong Kong, China. Photograph: Roman Pilipey/EPA

Protesters hold hands and wave the light from their phones as they participate in the ‘Hong Kong Way’, at Tsim Sha Tsui, in Hong Kong, China. Photograph: Roman Pilipey/EPA

 

Supporters of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement created human chains on both sides of the city’s harbour, inspired by a protest 30 years ago in the Baltic states against Soviet control.

They linked hands at first, then many switched on their smartphone lights and held them up to create a row of white lights against the night-time skyline.

Organisers hoped the chains, which traced three subway routes, would total 40km (25 miles) in length.

A group headed up to the iconic Lion Rock peak, while others took to tourist hotspots and the business district.

Protesters in the human chain during the Hong Kong Way anti-government rally on the top of Lion Rock in Hong Kong, China. Photograph: Billy HC Kwok/Getty Images
Protesters in the human chain during the Hong Kong Way anti-government rally on the top of Lion Rock in Hong Kong, China. Photograph: Billy HC Kwok/Getty Images

It was the latest protest in a nearly 11-week-old movement that began with calls to scrap a now-suspended extradition Bill and has widened to include demands for full democracy and an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality at protests.

Nearly two million Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians formed The Baltic Way, a human chain almost 600km long, on August 23rd, 1989.

Organisers of The Hong Kong Way said it would “be a show of solidarity among people who are united against the extradition law and police violence, and a plea for international support”.

Earlier on Friday, accountants in Hong Kong marched in support of the pro-democracy movement, while the Canadian consulate banned its staff from leaving the city on official business after a British consulate employee was detained in mainland China.

The head of the cabin crew union for Hong Kong airline Cathay Dragon said she had been fired in retaliation for supporting the movement, adding to the chill in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

The Canadian consulate did not say whether the travel restriction on local staff was related to the detention of the British consulate employee, Simon Cheng.

He went missing two weeks ago after going on a business trip from Hong Kong’s high-speed rail terminal to Shenzhen, a mainland city just across the border.

Christians gather in Chater Garden before a human chain was formed there in Hong Kong. Photograph: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images
Christians gather in Chater Garden before a human chain was formed there in Hong Kong. Photograph: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

During a daily briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China respects Canada’s decision, but countered it with a Confucius quote: “A gentleman is open and poised; a petty man is unhappy and worried.”

Mr Geng elaborated that those who are “above board” will have their rights guaranteed in China, while people with “an ulterior motive to engage in illegal activities” may have to be “extremely cautious”.

Rallies

A few thousand accountants gathered in a city square around noon and marched to government headquarters, becoming the latest profession to back the movement publicly following rallies by lawyers, teachers and medical workers.

One participant, Sarah Wong, said accountants are usually quiet because they are focused on getting the numbers right, but they cannot remain silent anymore.

Kenneth Leung, a politician who represents the accounting industry, said that the now-suspended extradition Bill would have affected accountants, because many of them have clients in mainland China and travel there.

The legislation would have allowed suspects to be extradited to the mainland to face trial.

“The profession as a whole needs to come out to express their concerns and grievances,” he said.

Rebecca Sy, the airline union head, told a news conference that Cathay Dragon dismissed her without giving a reason, but that the firing came after she was pulled from a flight at short notice and asked by an airline representative to confirm that a screenshot from Facebook was from her account.

“It’s not just about the termination of the job, it’s also the whole issue, it’s terrifying. All my colleagues are all terrified,” Ms Sy said.

“I feel so sorry for them because I’m no longer in that position to protect them. I used to be the one to stand behind them, to back up all of my colleagues.”

Cathay Dragon is owned by Hong Kong’s main carrier, Cathay Pacific, which has come under pressure from Chinese authorities for employing people who support the protests.

The company said in a statement that Ms Sy’s departure “has nothing to do with her union leadership role or her union activities”. – AP