Hong Kong schoolchildren form human chains in support of pro-democracy movement

9 September 2019, 17:33 | Updated: 9 September 2019, 20:16

Schoolchildren in Hong Kong have formed human chains to show their support for the pro-democracy movement after violent clashes between police and protesters at the weekend.

Thousands of high school and university students across the territory held hands in long human chains outside their schools before lessons began.

They were joined in their silent protest by many graduates wearing the protesters' trademark black tops and masks while some university students continued their protest chains at lunchtime.

The youngsters' decision to show their solidarity for the campaign for democratic reforms is likely to antagonise the former British colony's embattled leader Carrie Lam and her backers in China.

Beijing, which has governed Hong Kong since 1997, and its entirely state-controlled media has portrayed the protests as an effort by criminals to split the territory from China, backed by what it said were hostile foreigners.

After a 14th consecutive weekend of protests again descended into violence, the Hong Kong government condemned the "illegal behaviour of radical protesters" and warned the US to stay out of its affairs.

It urged US politicians not to pass a bill proposing economic sanctions and penalties on Hong Kong and Chinese officials who are found to be suppressing democracy and human rights.

"Foreign legislatures," it said in a statement, "should not interfere in any form in the internal affairs" of Hong Kong.

The warning to Washington followed Sunday's peaceful march to the US consulate where demonstrators presented petitions calling on President Donald Trump to "stand with Hong Kong".

Violence erupted later in the day in a business and shopping district as protesters attacked subway stations, set fires and blocked traffic, prompting police to fire tear gas.

Alleged police brutality was part of Monday's protest, with one student carrying a placard that read: "Stop violence, we are not rioters", while others chanted: "Five key demands, not one less."

The slogan refers to the withdrawal of the hated extradition bill which allowed China to extradite suspects for questioning and which sparked the protests in June.

Protesters also want direct elections for Hong Kong's leader, an independent probe into alleged police brutality against demonstrators, and an end to the characterisation of the protests as "riots", which can carry a more severe penalty.

Their other demand is the release of more than 1,200 people detained so far.

One of those held, well-known Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, was freed on Monday, a day after he was detained at the airport following a bail issue.

Journalists covering the protests staged a demonstration of their own on Monday by dressing as protesters in helmets and gas masks for a police news conference.

Reporters complained that riot police had used pepper spray and threatened members of the media covering the weekend clashes.