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Students form a human chain in Hong Kong’s Sha Tin district.
HAND-HOLDING

Photos: Hong Kong high-school students formed human chains in solidarity with protesters

By Isabella Steger

If the Hong Kong government thought the start of a new school year would put a brake on the months-long protests that have rocked the city, they would have grossly miscalculated.

On Sept. 9, during the second week of the new academic year, students continued their protest actions by forming human chains, inspired by the “Hong Kong Way” demonstrations on Aug. 24 that saw people hold hands even 1,620 feet (495 meters) above sea level across a mountain. That idea was itself a recreation of the Baltic Way human chains that precipitated the independence of the Baltic states from the USSR three decades ago.

The human-chain rally followed another weekend of serious clashes between protesters and police that took place after tens of thousands marched to the city’s US consulate, calling on Washington to support their fight for freedom and democracy. In the skirmishes that followed, a student from a high school in the Tai Po district was violently apprehended by police in a subway station. Video footage showed the student bleeding from the head. Hundreds of students and alumni from the same school also took part (link in Chinese) in the human chain today, with some wearing bandages around their heads in solidarity with the injured student.

The protests in Hong Kong, now in their 14th week, began in opposition to an extradition bill that would have allowed the government to send suspects to mainland China. The Hong Kong government last week announced it would formally withdraw, and not merely suspend, the extradition bill in a bid to cool tensions, but the protests have continued unabated as public ire against what many see as rapidly worsening police brutality reaches a boiling point.

Police said they arrested 157 people over the weekend, bringing the total number of people arrested since the protests started in mid-June to more than 1,300. The youngest person arrested on the weekend was 14, underscoring the extent to which teenagers are on the frontline of Hong Kong’s protests. A 12-year-old was arrested in August.

The human-chain rally came after high-school and university students last week kicked off the new academic year with a class boycott.

ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images
Students, alumni, and teachers in the Mid-Levels area of Hong Kong take part in a human chain.
ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images
Students in the Mid-Levels area take part in a joint-school human-chain rally in Hong Kong.
ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images
Students in the Mid-Levels area take part in a joint-school human-chain rally in Hong Kong.
REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Secondary school students hold hands in a human chain as they demonstrate against what they say is police brutality against protesters.
REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
A secondary-school student in Hong Kong’s Wanchai district wears goggles and a face mask in support of protesters.
REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Students hold a Mickey Mouse plush toy during a human-chain protest. Its eye is covered in support of a female protester who earlier was allegedly shot in the eye by police.
PHILIP FONG/AFP/Getty Images
A student covers her eye during a human-chain rally in Hong Kong’s Sha Tin district in support of a female protester who earlier was allegedly shot in the eye by police.
PHILIP FONG/AFP/Getty Images
Secondary school students hold a plush toy in solidarity with a female protester who was earlier allegedly shot in the eye by police.
ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images
A student taking part in a joint-school human-chain rally covers his eye in solidarity with a protester who was allegedly shot in the eye by police.
ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images
Students in the Mid-Levels area hold a sign modeled on signs used in Hong Kong’s subway system as part of a human-chain protest.
AP Photo/Kin Cheung
Students wear gas masks and helmets during a human-chain rally in Hong Kong’s Western district.
Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Students wearing gas masks join a human chain.