HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hundreds of Hong Kong university and school students exchanged lessons for democracy demonstrations on Monday, the last act of defiance in an anti-government movement that plunged China's ruled city into its biggest political crisis of the last decades.
Riot police hold its shield in a mass rail transit station (MTR) in Hong Kong, China, 2 September 2019. REUTERS / Anushree Fadnavis
The boycott follows a weekend marked by some of the worst violence since the riots intensified more than three months ago, with protesters who burned barricades and threw gasoline bombs and the police took revenge with water cannons, tear gas and batons.
On Monday the riot police patrolled the underground, known as the MTR, where some of the most violent clashes broke out.
Hundreds of students gathered outside the Chinese university of Hong Kong, one of the largest in the city, taking turns to make speeches from a stage with a black background in relief with "Boycott of our students in our city".
"I come here only to tell others that even after the end of the summer holidays we have not returned to our normal life, we should continue to fight for Hong Kong," said a 19-year-old student who asked to be identified as Chan alone.
"These protests wake me up to worry more about society and take care of the voiceless."
The images published on social media showed files of teenagers lined up outside secondary schools holding banners. Many elementary schools have been closed due to a warning about the typhoon. Monday was the first day after the summer holidays.
Matthew Cheung, chief secretary of the Hong Kong government, told reporters that the schools could not protest.
The protesters had called for a general strike, but most people seemed to return to daily life with open shops, operational trains and workers heading to the offices through the global financial hub.
Thousands of protesters blocked roads and public transport connections with Hong Kong airport on Sunday in an attempt to attract the attention of the world on their attempt to force Beijing to give greater autonomy to the former British colony , returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
The airport authorities stated that 25 flights were canceled on Sunday, but transport services have largely returned to normal.
Anger in China
On Sunday after leaving the airport, some protesters targeted the MTR subway station in the nearby Tung Chung district, tearing the turnstiles and smashing CCTV and metal pole lamps. The police moved and made several arrests.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, a lightning rod for protesters' anger at a city government that they believe is controlled by Beijing, said Monday on its Facebook page that 10 subway stations were damaged by "violent criminals".
Police and protesters clashed Saturday evening in some of the most intense violence since the riots increased in mid-June due to concerns that Beijing is eroding the freedoms granted to the territory under a "one country, two systems" agreement including the right to protest and an independent judiciary.
John Lee, secretary of the government for security, told the media that about 100 petrol bombs were launched Saturday in various locations with two found on a 13-year-old boy who was arrested inside an MTR station.
The riots began due to an extradition law now suspended that would have allowed people in the city to be sent to China for a trial in the courts controlled by the Communist Party, the last example of what many residents see as a control increasingly severe on the part of Beijing, despite the promise of autonomy.
The turmoil evolved in 13 weeks to become a widespread demand for greater democracy. China is anxious to suppress the unrest before the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on 1 October.
China denies meddling in Hong Kong affairs and accuses Western countries of responding to protests. He says Hong Kong is an internal affair.
With Hong Kong facing its first recession in a decade, China has also warned of the damage that the protests are causing in the economy.
Shares in the Hong Kong railway operator MTR Corp Ltd (0066.HK) fell 3.9% to HK $ 43.65, the lowest since February 15th and on track for the third consecutive session of decline.
With the protesters and the authorities locked up in a blind alley, speculation has grown that the city government can impose an emergency law, giving it extra powers on detentions, censorship and curfews.
Lam said the government would consider using all the laws available to it to end the unrest.
Reporting of Jessie Pang, Joyce Zhou, Farah Master, Donny Kwok, Clare Jim and Twinnie Siu; Written by Joe Brock; Edited by Paul Tait, Robert Birsel
.. Photo available (t) Crime (t) Transportation (TRBC) (t) Video (t) Asia / Pacific (t) Important news (t) Human rights / Civil rights (t) Education (t) United Kingdom (t) Work / Staff (t) Pictures (t) United States (t) Pollution (t) Diplomacy / Foreign Policy (t) China (PRC) (t) Government / Politics (t) Fundamental Rights / Civil Liberties (t) Europe (t ) Airlines (TRBC) (t) International / national security (t) Emerging market countries (t) Civil unrest (t) Tourism / Travel