Thousands of Hong Kong students protest, call for democratic reforms

Students gather Monday for anti-government protests at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Photo by Laurel Chor/EPA-EFE

Sept. 2 (UPI) — Thousands of Hong Kong students boycotted the first day of school Monday to continue a series of protests that began in June over calls for autonomy from mainland China and democratic reforms.

Police said the protests were peaceful.

As many as 30,000 students rallied at several locations following a summer that saw protests and confrontations with police at in the streets, outside government offices and at Hong Kong International Airport.

The largest anti-government gathering Monday was at Chinese University of Hong Kong, where students, largely organized through social media, boycotted classes and pushed for reforms.

In addition, hundreds of high school students gathered at Edinburgh Place in the central business district, as riot police watched on. The students were joined by thousands of workers seeking to continue the long-lasting protests.

The protests resulted from a now-suspended bill that would have allowed extradition to mainland China for trial. The demands have expanded to include universal suffrage and an investigation into alleged police brutality.

Some protesters were taken into custody after trying to block train doors during the Monday morning rush hour. Some trains were delayed, police said.

Many high school students wore gas masks and some formed human chains. University students who skipped class carried protest signs and chanted protest slogans.

“I am willing to take any disciplinary consequences,” one student from a college in the district of Sham Shui Po told the South China Morning Post.

Education and government officials said they opposed school boycotts. They told teachers in a letter that schools should be politically neutral.

“Schools are absolutely not places for presenting political views or demands,” Matthew Cheung, the city’s chief secretary, said at a news conference Monday.

He said boycott would stimulate “the turmoil we see in society to the peaceful environments of school.”


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