HONG KONG: Secondary school students and retirees joined forces to protest in Hong Kong on Saturday, the first of several weekend rallies planned across the city, as pro-democracy activists vowed to battle what they say are police brutality and unlawful arrests.
A top Hong Kong official said the government was looking into setting up an independent committee to review the handling of the crisis, in which demonstrations have become increasingly violent since they began more than five months ago.
Hong Kong has seen relative calm since local elections last week delivered an overwhelming victory to pro-democracy candidates. Still, activists appear keen to maintain the momentum of their movement.
“I came out for the peaceful protest in June when there was more than one million people, but the government did not listen to our demands,” said a 71-year-old woman in Hong Kong’s Central district.
She brought her own plastic stool to join a cross-generational protest of a few hundred people at the city’s Chater Garden. Elderly Hong Kongers, some with visors and canes, stood not far from young, black-clad protesters. All listened to pro-democracy speakers in a gathering marked by a festive mood.
“I have seen so much police brutality and unlawful arrests. This is not the Hong Kong I know. I came today because I want the government to know that we are not happy with what they have done to our generation,” said Ponn, who attended with her daughter and son-in-law.
Demonstrators are angered by what they see as Chinese interference in freedoms promised when Britain returned Hong Kong to Beijing in 1997.
Although the protests were sparked by an extradition bill that was later scrapped, demonstrators have been making “five demands” that include universal suffrage in choosing the city’s leader and an independent inquiry into police use of force.
On Saturday, citing authorities, the Communist party newspaper of the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou said police had arrested a Belize citizen for allegedly colluding with people in the United States to meddle in Hong Kong affairs.
The Hong Kong city government is looking into setting up an independent committee to review the handling of the crisis, Matthew Cheung, Chief Secretary for Administration, told reporters when asked about an independent review committee. Some critics on social media have said that such a committee would fall short of the independent investigation they have been demanding.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, also called for an investigation into allegations of excessive police force.
“I appeal to the government to take important confidence-building measures, including a proper independent and impartial judge-led investigation into reports of excessive use of force by the police,” Bachelet wrote in an opinion piece in the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post newspaper on Saturday.
Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2019