Home Central Asia Huge Hong Kong rally after student dies and lawmakers arrested

Huge Hong Kong rally after student dies and lawmakers arrested

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HONG KONG: Tens of thousands of Hong Kongers packed into Tamar Park on Saturday (Nov 9) night as police arrested a group of lawmakers, deepening the city's political crisis.

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 on Friday after falling from multi-storey park during a protest.

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Alex Chow Tsz-lok, 22, a student at Hong Kong's University of Science and Technology (UST), fell on Monday as protesters were being dispersed by police.

The international finance hub has been upended by five months of huge and increasingly violent protests, but Beijing has refused to give in to most of the movement's demands.

READ: Hong Kong girds for more protests after student dies

People attend a prayer rally in Hong Kong's Tamar Park on Nov 9, 2019, in memory of a student who died from injuries sustained during a fall as police skirmished with demonstrators. (Photo: AFP/Philip FONG)

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"Tonight we are not only here to mourn for him but 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.

The huge rally – one of the few in recent months to obtain police approval – means Hong Kong has witnessed 24 weekends of protest in what has become the most profound challenge to Beijing's rule since the 1997 handover.

READ: Hong Kong faces 24th weekend of protest after student's death

People attend a prayer rally in Hong Kong's Tamar Park on Nov 9, 2019, in memory of a student who died from injuries sustained during a fall as police skirmished with demonstrators. (Photo: AFP/Philip FONG)

Many at the peaceful and sombre rally wore black.

"I want an independent inquiry because that proves Hong Kong is still a place with rule of law," a 35-year-old woman, who gave her surname Wong, told AFP, echoing the movement's core demand for an investigation into police tactics.

Wong, who said she moved to Hong Kong from the mainland three years ago, said she also wanted to see less confrontational tactics from hardcore protesters.

"I think non-violent ways can also win," she said.

READ: Hong Kong vigils for dead student turn to street clashes

LAWMAKER ARRESTS

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 on Saturday evening to be booked, and one refused to appear.

Hong Kong lawmakers hold a press conference before turning themselves in at the Hong Kong Police Headquarters in Hong Kong's Wanchai district on Nov 9, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Laurel Chor)

The charges relate to chaotic scenes that broke out within a legislative committee in May as 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 lawmakers who win their seats in local elections.

READ: China supports more aggressive measures to tame Hong Kong unrest: Vice Premier Han Zheng

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.

Chow's death has only intensified the tinderbox atmosphere in what has become a deeply polarised city, with violence escalating on both sides of the ideological divide.

Although the precise chain of events leading to his fall is unclear and disputed, protesters have made alleged police brutality one of their movement's rallying cries and have seized on the death.

Police have repeatedly denied any allegations of wrongdoing in relation to Chow's death.

Vigils on Friday night saw large crowds and frequent clashes with police in multiple neighbourhoods, including one officer firing a live wRead More – Source