Hundreds mark HK protest anniversary

Smoke replicating tear gas that was fired by police during a gathering marking the third anniversary of the Umbrella Movement on Sept 28, 2017.
Smoke replicating tear gas that was fired by police during a gathering marking the third anniversary of the Umbrella Movement on Sept 28, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

Three years after pro-democracy rallies, fears grow over Beijing's grip on the city

HONG KONG • Hundreds gathered outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong yesterday to mark the third anniversary of mass pro-democracy rallies known as the Umbrella Movement, as fears grow over Beijing's tightening grip on the city.

Tens of thousands blocked major thoroughfares in Hong Kong for 79 days starting on Sept 28, 2014, to call for fully free leadership elections in the city, in a movement spearheaded by student leaders who have since been jailed for their involvement.

Hundreds of people raised yellow umbrellas at 5.58pm yesterday as smoke was generated from a machine, to mark the time when police fired tear gas at protesters, and audio recordings from three years ago were played on speakers, Agence France-Presse reported.

"I want universal suffrage, civil disobedience!" crowds shouted.

"There're more younger people coming out; it's a good thing," said Mr Anthony Kwok, 52, a part-time bartender who attended the event. "We must be unified in our next step forward."

Ms Carmen Yu, 47, who attended the rally with her child, told AFP: "In the past years, the government propaganda machine had been in overdrive. I don't want my son to hear only one side of the argument."

Crowds also applauded the jailed student leaders.

HEARING BOTH SIDES

In the past years, the government propaganda machine had been in overdrive. I don't want my son to hear only one side of the argument.

MS CARMEN YU, who attended the rally outside the Hong Kong government headquarters with her child yesterday.

Joshua Wong, the face of the movement, former lawmaker Nathan Law and fellow protest leader Alex Chow were sent to prison last month for their leading role in the initial protest that sparked the Umbrella Movement.

The court jailed them for six to eight months after a sentencing review brought by the Department of Justice.

Their jailing has been slammed by international rights groups and politicians and has prompted accusations that the independence of Hong Kong's courts has been compromised under pressure from Beijing.

Separately, the People's Liberation Army of China appears to be courting young Chinese recruits by featuring its Hong Kong garrison in two military videos posted on the website of its television channel on Tuesday and yesterday, the South China Morning Post reported.

The clips showed, among other things, live-fire drills in Hong Kong and its well-equipped barracks, complete with conversational titles.

Military commentator Antony Wong Dong said: "Hong Kong is always the best selling point to attract young recruits."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2017, with the headline 'Hundreds mark HK protest anniversary'. Print Edition | Subscribe