Thousands of black-clad students rallied Monday at the start of a two-week boycott of university classes, piling pressure on Hong Kong’s leaders to resolve months of increasingly violent anti-government protests that show no sign of easing.
Students have been the backbone of a movement that sprang up to oppose government plans to allow extraditions to China but has morphed into wider protests against the Beijing-backed territory’s unelected leadership.
Hundreds have been arrested in violent clashes with police, and an increasingly shrill Beijing has labelled protesters “terrorists”, with an editorial by China’s state news agency Sunday warning “the end is coming”.
Hong Kong enjoys freedoms unseen on the Chinese mainland under the “one country, two systems” policy inherited in the handover from Britain in 1997, but locals fear those rights are being eroded.
On Monday, as universities reopened after the summer break, thousands of students boycotted classes and gathered instead in central Hong Kong.
“Today is the first day of school, but I still want to come out,” a 19-year-old university student named Tommy told AFP.
“I don’t think we will miss anything. This is also a form of learning.”
Earlier Monday a call for a general strike went largely unheeded, but riot police patrolled some subway stations after protesters briefly disrupted services during rush hour by preventing the train doors from closing.
Elsewhere, secondary pupils formed human chains at schools and nurses carrying pro-democracy placards lined hospital corridors in flash protests to show their support for the anti-government movement.
“Hong Kong is our home… we are the future of the city and have to take up responsibility to save it,” said a 17-year-old secondary school student who gave her surname as Wong