On the first day of school Monday, secondary students in Hong Kong supplemented their formal white uniforms with gas masks, goggles and hard hats as they planned to strike in a show of continued commitment to a fiery anti-government protest movement.
The semiautonomous Chinese territory has been rocked by nearly three months of pro-democracy protests calling for electoral reforms and an independent inquiry into police conduct.
The youth-dominated demonstrations will be tested as classes resume and many protesters are expected to go back to school following the summer break. A strike was scheduled for Monday afternoon for student protesters to skip classes and congregate at a public square in central Hong Kong.
At St. Francis’ Canossian College, a girls’ school, uniformed students kneeled in a line and held up hand-painted signs that read: “The five major demands: Not one is dispensable.”
The protesters’ demands include dropping charges against demonstrators who have been arrested and formally withdrawing an extradition bill that would allow Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China to stand trial.
Some demonstrators disrupted the morning commute by blocking train doors, attempting to evade riot police who were hot on their heels by moving quickly between multiple public transit stations.
Officers at Lok Fu station hit protesters with batons and arrested one. Another three were arrested at Lai King station.
On Sunday, the MTR Corp. suspended train service to the airport after several hundred protesters gathered there following calls online to disrupt transportation. They blocked buses arriving at the airport but police in riot helmets kept them out of the terminal.
The protesters accuse Beijing and the government of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam of eroding the autonomy and civil liberties promised when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.
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