About 1,000 young and elderly protesters gathered in downtown Hong Kong on Saturday after a peaceful week following district council elections, to show that their demands had not changed despite a landslide victory for the pro-democracy camp in the polls.
The rally was organised by secondary school students and the so-called silver-haired group, to demonstrate that their calls for freedom and democracy were cross-generational.
The peaceful rally at Chater Garden in Central, which police had authorised, followed a sweeping victory for the pro-democracy camp in last Sunday’s elections, taking control of 17 out of the city’s 18 district councils.
People from all walks of life across all ages came together to take part in the rally, to keep the anti-government movement alive. Apart from students and the elderly, there were also pastors, artists and educators who came onstage to share their views on why the movement must go on.
Tam Kwok-sun, 64, one of the rally organisers, said he hoped the event could unite the young and old to keep the protest movement alive until all their demands had been met.
“I will volunteer to help our councillors understand what citizens think,” Tam said. “It’s important for the neighbourhood to be involved in supporting our councillors not just by voting but also by actively participating in the community.”
Zack Ho, a Form Six student from Delia Memorial School, Hip Wo, said: “We carry the burden of Hong Kong’s future and the dreams of Hongkongers. It’s scary, but we are not afraid.”
Filmmaker Kenneth Ip Kin-hang, better known as Shu Kei, took the occasion to reach out to the anonymous protest artists who make songs, poems, online posts and photographs.
Phoebe Tang, a Form Four student, was surprised to see so many elders joining the rally.
“We may have a huge age gap, but it’s inspiring to see that we are all striving for the same ideologies,” she said, referring to the protesters’ five demands.
“Some of us have argued with our parents over politics and protests, but it’s inspiring that there are still many elders supporting us.”
Tang has been on the protest front lines and he says he personally knows some classmates who were arrested during demonstrations.
“It’s hard for anyone to focus on his or her studies or work, because we haven’t won our battle with the government yet,” she said, adding that she would start preparing for semester exams during the upcoming winter break.
A 17-year-old Form Six student, surnamed Sin, said he hoped the voices of all the anti-government protesters could be heard through “peaceful, rational and non-violent” protests one day.
The student said he decided to join the frontline protesters in August, after he had been enraged by the alleged police inaction in bringing to book those who launched an indiscriminate attack on passengers and other civilians at Yuen Long MTR station on July 21.
The black-clad protester said he was worried about being arrested, while he was also concerned about his public exams.
“But every time I ask myself to choose between the DSE exams and fighting the battle, I always choose the latter – because I love Hong Kong.”
Another 17-year-old Form Six student, who gave his name as Marco, brought along his textbooks to study during the rally as he had to prepare for upcoming public exams.
“Citizens should continue to join peaceful and rational gatherings even though we’ve already been protesting for nearly six months,” Marco said. “As Hongkongers, we need to continue using different methods to raise our demands with the government. The battle in PolyU shows just how ugly the government is because they just let young protesters starve and get trapped.”
On Friday, police ended their 13-day siege of Polytechnic University, which was caught in the crossfire between radical protesters and riot officers, with more than 1,100 people being arrested or having their information recorded. More than 1,000 radicals and their supporters had occupied the campus a fortnight ago, and engaged in fierce battles with police on November 17.
The city has been rocked by protests sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill since June. Protesters have five core demands, including an independent inquiry into police actions during protests and the bill’s complete withdrawal, which Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced in early September.
Some 5,890 people have so far been arrested in connection with the protests, of whom around 40 per cent are students, including 910 under the age of 18.
However, no police were in sight at the rally on Saturday.