Students and alumni from at least five Hong Kong schools formed human chains Friday to raise awareness for the remaining four demands of protesters involved in months of demonstrations in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. The continuing act of defiance came two days after Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced that her government will be formally withdrawing an extradition bill that sparked the demonstrations. The proposed legislation would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China to stand trial.
Despite the hard-fought concession, some protesters have said they will continue their resistance because the government has committed to fulfilling only one of their five demands, which include electoral reforms and an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality. Hong Kong is a former British colony that was returned to China in 1997 under the so-called "one country, two systems" framework, which promised the territory certain democratic rights not afforded to the mainland.
In recent years, however, some Hong Kong residents have accused Beijing of steadily eroding those freedoms. Students in blue school dresses held hands Friday outside the Maryknoll Convent School, a Catholic girls' school. They paired their uniforms with surgical masks, in the style of protesters who wear masks to conceal their identities and mitigate the effects of tear gas.
Alumni from various schools and clad in protesters' trademark black also joined similar chains in the district. One young man dressed in a shirt bearing his school's emblem held up a placard that said "Freedom." The demonstrations that began in June have become increasingly violent in recent weeks, with protesters throwing Molotov cocktails and police officers using tear gas, batons and water cannons. More than 1,000 people have been arrested.
While the extradition bill was the trigger for the movement, it has since shifted its target toward the police, who have been accused of using excessive force. The authorities say they have only used the minimum amount of force necessary to quell riotous demonstrators. Lam on Wednesday said her government would not accept the other demands, and instead named two new members to an existing police watchdog agency investigating police conduct.