Hong Kong protesters join hands to form human chain

Protesters in the Central district holding up banners thanking countries for supporting freedom in Hong Kong. The latest protest comes as railway operator MTR received an injunction to keep protesters off railway property. Protesters linking hands to
Protesters linking hands to form a human chain along Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong yesterday. There have been calls for a non-cooperation campaign to jam up the transportation network to the airport today.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Protesters in the Central district holding up banners thanking countries for supporting freedom in Hong Kong. The latest protest comes as railway operator MTR received an injunction to keep protesters off railway property. Protesters linking hands to
Protesters in the Central district holding up banners thanking countries for supporting freedom in Hong Kong. The latest protest comes as railway operator MTR received an injunction to keep protesters off railway property. PHOTO: REUTERS

Thousands line streets, inspired by 1989 Baltic protest; more rallies planned for today

Anti-government protesters in Hong Kong lined the city's streets and harbour front last night, inspired by a historic human chain pro-democracy protest in the Baltic states against Soviet control 30 years ago.

Thousands of demonstrators linked hands across different districts, as others held Hong Kong flags or banners thanking countries for supporting freedom in Hong Kong.

The Baltic Way, or Baltic Chain, refers to the protest on Aug 23, 1989, when about two million people joined hands to form a human chain of more than 650km across three Baltic states - Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania - calling for independence from the Soviet Union.

The latest protest in Hong Kong comes as railway operator MTR received an injunction to keep protesters off railway property. The temporary order from the High Court prohibits anyone from affecting train and station operations until next Friday.

The injunction is similar to one obtained by the Hong Kong Air-port Authority on Aug 14. That temporary court order was extended yesterday.

Judge Wilson Chan, who granted the extension, noted that calls have been made to disrupt traffic to the airport today. Given the turmoil and immeasurable impact on the airport and Hong Kong's global reputation, he said he has no qualms about extending the order until further notice.

The injunction gives the Hong Kong airport authority the right to clear protesters, except for those in designated areas.

Police and protesters clashed at Terminal 1 on the night of Aug 13, following incidents of two men being accosted. The airport, one of the world's busiest, was forced to close temporarily last week.

Separately, a Fanling court yesterday afternoon heard the case of the two men charged with rioting over their alleged participation in the July 21 Yuen Long attacks.

 
 
 
 

The duo will be allowed bail of HK$30,000 (S$5,305) each, with their passports impounded and a curfew imposed on them. They are also not to appear within a 50m radius of Yuen Long station, where their alleged crimes took place.

The two men, Wong Ying-kit, 48, and Wong Chi-wing, 54, were charged on Thursday and were the first among the 28 people arrested following the July 21 attacks to be formally charged with any offence.

Most of them were arrested for illegal assembly.

Their case has been adjourned until Oct 25. The prosecution said at least 24 individuals sustained injuries from the attacks.

The pair face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

The unrest in Hong Kong, which is entering its 12th straight weekend, escalated in June when people protested against an extradition Bill proposed by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam. The Bill, which is now suspended, would have allowed the transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions, including mainland China, where critics say suspects could be subject to unfair trials.

But the anger has morphed into a wider movement for universal suffrage and an inquiry into what anti-government protesters say is the police's abuse of power, among other things.

Mrs Lam had invited 20 to 30 prominent figures to a meeting today to discuss her proposal to set up a platform for dialogue, but this has been rejected by the protesters.

Besides calls for a non-cooperation campaign to jam up the transportation network to the airport today, there will be a march in Kwun Tong in the afternoon and a gathering in Chater Garden in the evening.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China (FCCC) said it has received in recent weeks multiple reports of Chinese border officials detaining journalists and searching their digital devices when travelling between the mainland and Hong Kong.

Phones, cameras and laptops belonging to journalists who work for at least five organisations headquartered in North America, Europe and Australia were searched.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2019, with the headline 'HK protesters join hands to form human chain'. Print Edition | Subscribe