HONG KONG • Hong Kong protesters held a vigil for "martyrs" yesterday and many demanded "revenge"after a student died in hospital last week following a high fall, fuelling anger among pro-democracy demonstrators who first took to the streets in June.
Thousands of people gathered in Tamar Park next to central government offices in the former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997 after they had secured rare permission from the police to hold the evening rally.
The protesters sang hymns and carried flowers, while many shouted "revenge", a call heard increasingly often at rallies and given added impetus since a student died in hospital last Friday after falling from a multistorey carpark during a protest.
"Tonight, we are not only here to mourn for him but also to show the government, the Chinese Communist Party and the world that the things that have happened in the last six months have not been forgotten," said Tom, 26, a government worker who asked that only his first name be used.
Mr Chow Tsz Lok, 22, a student at Hong Kong's University of Science and Technology, fell on Monday as protesters were being dispersed by police.
The rally came after police brought charges against at least seven lawmakers who now face up to a year in jail if convicted.
Three were arrested overnight, three attended appointments yesterday evening to be booked, and one refused to appear.
The charges relate to chaotic scenes that broke out within a legislative committee in May as pro-democracy lawmakers tried to stop a controversial Bill being discussed that would allow extraditions to authoritarian mainland China.
At the time, city leader Carrie Lam was fast-tracking the Bill through the legislature, a move that ignited record-breaking street protests in which millions marched.
"The protests that have been going on for five months are yet to finish but the government is already launching massive arrests of pro-democracy legislators in collaboration with the police," the lawmakers said in a joint statement.
Hong Kong's legislature is quasi-democratic, with half the seats popularly elected and the rest chosen by largely pro-Beijing committees, ensuring the chamber remains stacked with government loyalists.
Opposition to the government comes in the form of a small band of pro-democracy lawmakers who win their seats in local elections.
The lack of fully free elections - and especially the fact that the city's leader is appointed by a pro-Beijing committee - has fuelled years of protests that have culminated in the latest unrest.
The death of Mr Chow is likely to fuel anger against the police, who protesters accuse of using excessive force.
The police said they had fired one round of live ammunition on Friday as a warning to what they described as "a large group of rioters armed with offensive weapons" who threw bricks at officers trying to clear street barricades in the Kowloon area.
"The lives of the officers were under serious threat," the police said in the statement yesterday.
Since June, protesters have thrown petrol bombs and vandalised banks, stores and metro stations.
Police have fired rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons and, in some cases, live rounds.
Last weekend, anti-government protesters crowded a shopping mall in running clashes with police that saw a man slash people with a knife and bite off part of the ear of a politician.