This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
Police in Hong Kong detained and searched dozens of people, including students in school uniform, after thousands turned out in shopping malls and streets across the city to mark the first anniversary of mass public protests on June 12, 2019.
Protesters gathered in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay, chanting calls for independence for the city ahead of the imposition of a draconian national security law that will see China’s feared state security police operate there to implement anti-subversion and sedition legislation.
The crowd also sang the protest anthem “Glory to Hong Kong,” the singing of which in a school recently led to the firing of a teacher.
Outside a school in Kowloon Tong, students from Heung To Middle School chanted slogans criticizing the school authorities for their refusal to extend the teacher’s contract after the song was sung under her supervision.
The school later described itself in an email to parents as “patriotic,” a buzz-word used by the ruling Chinese Communist Party to counteract liberal values in the Hong Kong education system. Education secretary Kevin Yeung said the song “Glory to Hong Kong” was political propaganda that had no place in schools.
But a high school student surnamed Chan who attended a protest on Friday said there is a feeling among young people in the city that their future has been taken away from them.
“We want everyone in Hong Kong to remember that day, and not to forget what the protests were about right from the start,” Chan said.
“The government shouldn’t be silencing people, because high school students are an important bridge to Hong Kong’s future,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with allowing politics into schools; if high schoolers don’t care about politics, then who will?”
“We need to band together to protect our future.”
A protester surnamed Cheung said she went to the protest because she had immigrated to Hong Kong more than a decade ago and had grown to appreciate its freedoms.
“We live in a very free environment where we can express ourselves, but now it looks as if that’s all going to change because of the government, because of Beijing,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter how much money you have; it’s not going to be of much benefit if we live in an oppressive environment,” she said. “What we need is freedom.”
Protesters also held exhibitions of news photos from the day’s protests in venues across the city on Friday.
Police warned crowds in Causeway Bay and Mong Kok they were taking part in an “illegal protest” and told them to leave.
Movement sparked by protest
A mass protest on June 12, 2019 outside the city’s Legislative Council (LegCo) marked the first time police were accused of deploying excessive force against a large crowd of peaceful, unarmed protesters, some of whom were forced to cram themselves through a single revolving door to escape volleys of the gas being lobbed into a restricted space crowded with people who couldn’t move freely.
The June 12 protest was a turning point in the campaign against plans by chief executive Carrie Lam to table legal amendments in LegCo enabling the extradition of alleged criminal suspects to mainland China.
The protests led to the suspension of the LegCo session and stalled the amendment for months.
Lam’s refusal to respond to public opinion and the use of violent tactics by riot police to disperse the crowds sparked an even bigger wave of popular anger, and a gathering of some two million turned out on the anniversary of the handover to Chinese rule on July 1, during which a multitude of young, masked protesters stormed LegCo and daubed slogans on the chamber.
The protesters, angered by the government’s refusal to withdraw the extradition bill from LegCo, also broadened their demands to include fully democratic elections, an inquiry into police violence, an end to the description of protesters as “rioters,” and an amnesty for all arrested protesters.
While Lam eventually withdrew the bill in October and called for dialogue, protesters replied that there would be no dialogue unless the five demands were met.