Hundreds of Hongkongers staged a peaceful rally and memorial service for their comrades “lost in anti-government protests” on Monday evening, as they reflected how 2019 was a year of “helplessness and sadness” for the city.
The “Grief of us” rally at Edinburgh Place in Central came on the heels of weekend protests in shopping centres across the city, which resulted in 34 arrests, including a 13-year-old, and ahead of a march by the Civil Human Rights Front on January 1, expected to draw huge crowds.
The demonstrators started the rally at 5.30pm by observing two minutes of silence, while some participants brought white flowers, folded colourful paper doves and signed their names on a memorial board that bore the names of 26 people who, they believed, had died during police operations or killed themselves over the ongoing social unrest.
The protesters continue to believe some people died during police operations even though the government has come out time and again to say no one had been killed in such actions.
Among the names was that of University of Science and Technology student Chow Tsz-lok who suffered severe brain injury after a fall in a Tseung Kwan O car park in November. Police were conducting a crowd clearance operation nearby, with tear gas, and are still investigating the incident.
On the rally stage, a speaker who went by the alias “After Tomorrow”, spoke about the hurt and loss felt by many.
“Police have hurt our bodies and minds since June, this is something we won’t forget. We organised the vigil not just to remember those who have passed away, but also the freedoms and democracy that have died in Hong Kong,” he said.
Rally organiser “Ha Gao” told those present about the power of collective remembrance.
“Many of our comrades have laid down their limbs, lives, and freedoms to fight for Hong Kong’s freedoms and future. That’s why we are here today.”
He said that 2019 was a year of helplessness, anger, and extreme sadness. “But just as people remember the June 4 massacre [in Tiananmen Square in 1989], we need to document this part of our history.”
Organisers said about 600 people attended the rally. Police estimated the turnout was 280 at the rally’s peak.
Sparked by opposition to the now-withdrawn extradition bill, the protests have morphed into a wider anti-government movement, demanding, among other things, greater democracy and accountability of police.
At the rally, IT worker Roger Mak said he regularly attended peaceful rallies and would also attend the one scheduled on January 1.
“Peaceful protests can boost our spirits as many of our radical comrades have been arrested. I have joined an IT labour union to help organise protests in our sector to mount pressure on the government,” Mak, 35, said.
Many unions – especially in professions such as civil service, banking, and social work – were set up recently to organise sector-wide protests.
Form Five student Ben Chu, was one of the many young faces at the rally. The 17-year-old said he believed young people would form the backbone of the protests in 2020.
“Many young people were arrested over the weekend and during Christmas because we did not have school and could come out on the streets. This is our future, and we will continue to fight for it,” he said.
This article Hongkongers stage peaceful rally to remember those ‘lost’ during anti-government protests first appeared on South China Morning Post