Supporters of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement lined city streets and part of the city’s harbourfront Friday, inspired by a human chain in a historic Baltic states protest against Soviet control 30 years ago.
Some raised linked hands while others switched on their smartphone lights and held the devices aloft to create a row of white lights against the nighttime skyline. Organizers hoped the chains, which traced three subway routes, would total 40 kilometres in length.
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.
“It actually enraged me, the way that the government, the [city’s] chief executive and then the police, how they carry out their jobs,” said Michael Ng who works in finance and joined the chain outside an upscale mall. “Very brutal, I would say. We are talking about human rights here.”
Police say their use of tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds has been necessary to clear streets of protesters who have pelted them with eggs, bricks and gasoline bombs.
In a protest dubbed “the Baltic Way,” nearly two million Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians formed a human chain more than 600 kilometres long on Aug. 23, 1989.
Organizers of “the Hong Kong Way” said it would be a show of solidarity against the extradition law and police violence, as well as a plea for international support.
“I joined the Hong Kong Way because it’s peaceful,” said protester Peter Cheung, 27. “This is the 30th anniversary of the Baltic Way. I hope there will be a bigger chance to make an international noise.”
The protest, which included dozens shining lights from the top of Kowloon’s Lion Rock, visible from the main island of Hong Kong, showed the apparent defiance of Hong Kong people after warnings from Communist Party leaders in Beijing and Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam about violence.
Police presence was thin and the protest ended promptly at 9 p.m. local time.
In Lithuania, people marked the 30th anniversary of the Baltic Way by recreating the chain, and some in the crowd carried Hong Kong and Tibetan flags.
“The Baltic Way was occupied people showing their oppressor that they are no longer afraid and that they will be free,” attendee Ramunas Terleckas told Reuters. “I think this is what inspires Hong Kong to fight for their rights and freedom in this way.”
Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda, who was marking the anniversary with his Latvian counterpart at another event on their shared border, added: “The welfare, peace and prosperity of Hong Kong’s people is a goal we all share.”