By Shirley Lau / Hong Kong/ Young people in Hong Kong, who have been fronting the ongoing anti-government protest movement, embarked on a new school year on Monday by launching a class boycott.
On the first day of the new semester, against a backdrop of continuing protests that have escalated into violence in recent weeks, eight public universities and five other higher educational institutions in the Asian financial hub began a two-week strike, with a view to press the authorities to respond to protesters’ five demands surrounding the movement.
Secondary school students also began a boycott action whereby they would cut classes every Monday.
The demonstration movement, sparked by a contentious extradition bill that would have allowed fugitives in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China to face trials at courts controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, has stretched into the 13th week.
It was previously thought that the leaderless movement, of which young people were in the forefront, would die down as they returned to universities and schools in September. Nonetheless, it has shown no signs of relenting, with both the police and protesters upping the ante against each other over the past two weeks.
Meanwhile, MTR Corporation, the city’s metro service provider on which protesters have been relying heavily to commute to and from protest sites, has, under pressure from Beijing, introduced new measures against protesters’ favor, such as closing down stations during demonstrations. So far no mass rally has been planned for the month. With the student strike, a new front has been opened on school campuses and the protest movement may move to a new stage featuring new actions.
The university strike formally kicked off at an inauguration held at the 56-year-old Chinese University of Hong Kong in the afternoon. The event, organized by student unions of all 14 higher educational institutions, drew thousands of young people to the famous walkway of the university, where a stage was set with a banner reading “Student in unity, boycott for our city”.
“The threat of a crackdown with live ammunition is imminent. How is it possible, when the government brutally tears Hong Kong apart and turns every street and district into battlefields, for us to sit down at our desks in school like nothing happened?” said a joint statement issued by the university student unions and the Secondary School Student Organizations.
“A class boycott is not simply being absent from school, it is a collective action out of social justice and the fulfilment of civic responsibility. As students, we shoulder the responsibility of defending our home and protecting conscience.”
The Hong Kong Students’ Strike Alliance co-organizing the strike has warned that they may step up their action if the government does not respond by September 13.
A series of “civic lessons’ will be held across campuses under the principle of “boycotting classes, continue learning”, allowing students to “learn beyond traditional systematic education” and “become a citizen of a democratic society”.
In early afternoon, hundreds of uniform-wearing students gathered at a square in Central, the central business district, for the “Strike for the Future” rally organized by the young political group Demosisto.
Braving heavy rain, the youths chanted slogans and urged the government to address people’s five demands, which include formally withdrawing the extradition bill, introducing universal suffrage, and setting up an independent investigation body to probe alleged police brutality.
Isaac Cheng, 19, vice chairman of Demosisto, said the group conducted a poll recently which indicated at least 9,000 students from about 200 schools would join the boycott action.
Early in the morning, multiple secondary schools across Hong Kong also became sites of peaceful protests. Students from several schools in Chai Wan, eastern Hong Kong Island, held hands to form a human chain near their schools before 08.00.
At the elite boys’ school La Salle College, students stood outside the school gate, handing out flyers and chanting slogans such as “Recover Hong Kong, revolution of our times”. They wore school uniform, as well as hard hats, masks and goggles – the trademark gear of protesters who have been taking to the streets since June. Some alumni also joined in to show support.
Nonetheless, some of these demonstrations were disrupted by riot police officers who arrived at the scene and questioned individual protesters.
The class boycott was supposed to be accompanied by a general strike proposed by netizens, but so far only the former plan materialized. Relative calm returned to the Asian financial hub Monday, with shops opening and workers reporting for duty in the morning.
At around 08.00 local time (00.00 GMT), some protesters disrupted underground train services at several metro stations as part of a so-called “uncooperative movement”. Riot police were deployed to the affected stations and train services were back to normal about an hour later.
This came after a volatile weekend in which protesters threw Molotov cocktails at riot police, set a big fire near a police station and vandalized 32 railway stations. In return, police fired water cannons filled with blue dye, teargas, beanbag rounds and rubber bullets against protesters. Two warning shots were fired in the city’s biggest park by police officers who were allegedly attacked by a group of demonstrators.
Events took an uglier turn when members of the elite paramilitary task force of the police stormed into a metro station Saturday night to arrest black-clad protesters, beating some passengers including a young boy along the way. The operation has sent shockwaves through Hong Kong and prompted heavy criticism of the police.
On Sunday, thousands of protesters swarmed the airport in a bid to paralyze the busy aviation hub. A total of 12 railway stations were vandalized by protesters and some radical protesters threw objects at a section of track on the airport express near the airport.
Riot police promptly quelled the unlawful rally and the MTR suspended train services, forcing hundreds of demonstrators to walk six hours on a highway from the airport back to the city.
The police later issued a statement condemning the violent acts as “barbaric and outrageous” and said the protesters “totally disregarded the needs of travellers and members of the public”. (September 2, 2019, EFE/Practica Español)
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Lee la noticia y responde a las preguntas (Read the news and answer the questions)
de una huelga de los estudiantes de secundaria en Hong Kong.
de todas las protestas que tuvieron lugar el mes pasado en Hong Kong.
del porqué los jóvenes están en contra de la ley de extradicción en Hong Kong.
después de que la ley de extradición haya sido retirada totalmente.
para evitar que una polémica ley sea retirada.
ya que quieren apoyar a quienes se están manifestando a favor de la democracia en Hong Kong.
los manifestantes aún no han expresado sus exigencias a las autoridades.
miles de estudiantes de secundaria han expresado su apoyo a esas manifestaciones.
ningún estudiante teme que haya represalias por haber apoyado esas manifestaciones.
que solo se retire la ley de extradición en Hong Kong.
entre otras cosas que haya sufragio universal y se retire la ley de extradición.
que se endurezcan unas leyes y que no haya amnistía para los detenidos.
realizan esa huelga para que las autoridades respondan a las demandas de los manifestantes.
cientos de personas fueron detenidas el pasado fin de semana en Hong Kong.
se desmiente que algunas universidades vayan a hacer huelga.
Review grammar notes: tenses of the subjunctive mood