Dozens of protesters showed up in Hong Kong’s central business district on Monday night to mourn the victims of a fire in Xinjiang that sparked an outcry in mainland China against stringent zero-Covid policies.
About 50 people, including some from the mainland, stood in silence at Theatre Lane, Central, at 7pm, some of them holding up blank sheets of paper to symbolise censorship.
Others placed white bouquets of flowers and electric candles on the ground to commemorate the 10 who died and nine others who were injured.
About 30 police officers deployed to the scene cordoned off the area and checked mourners’ identity cards about 45 minutes into the vigil.
The event was largely peaceful until around 8pm, when activist Alexandra Wong Fung-yiu, 66, known by her nicknames “Wong Po Po” or “Grandma Wong” had her trademark yellow umbrella snatched by a man while she chanted a slogan.
Wong was knocked over during the incident and taken to hospital. The man was taken away by police.
Details of the commemoration of the residential fire in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region, was circulated online.
The tragedy sparked protests in some major mainland cities such as Shanghai and university campuses over the weekend, as many believed Covid-19 restrictions had prevented the victims from fleeing, although officials rejected the allegations.
A 29-year-old Shanghai resident, who identified himself only as James, joined the event in Hong Kong.
“I think the mainland should not use endless measures of restricting human freedom to reach zero-Covid. I think it is impractical,” he said.
“We hope to resume normal life one day with our masks off. We hope that the government can at least listen to our demand on this aspect.”
Another mainlander from Hunan province, Daniel Li, 25, distributed flowers to passers-by.
“We brought flowers to represent our mourning and sheets of blank paper to represent our demands. We want to let our people know the world is supporting them, even though we’re not in the same place,” he said.