The elders of Hong Kong have taken to the streets to show their support for the youth who have been leading the protests against the controversial extradition bill. On Wednesday (17 July), an estimated 9,000 people of mostly elderly citizens walked the streets of Hong Kong from Chater Garden in Central to the government headquarters in Admiralty. The police estimates the attendance at 1,500.
Led by co-founder of Occupy Central Rev. Chu Yiu-ming, singer and actress Deanie Ip Tak-han and film director Shu Kei, the crowd carried banners that read: “Support youngsters. Safeguard Hong Kong”. They also held up two black banners with the words “Opposed to institutional violence” and “We want universal suffrage”.
Rev. Chu is currently serving a suspended sentence for his role in the Occupy demonstration in 2014 for greater democracy. He said the march yesterday was a new page in the city’s social movement.
“This is now a mass movement, with all different age groups calling for the government to answer our demands,” he said to South China Morning Post (SCMP).
Earlier in June, a group of mothers staged a sit-in in Hong Kong park, urging for the full withdrawal of the extradition bill and for the resignation for Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
Speaking to South China Morning Post (SCMP), 67-yer old Yeung Po-hei who co-organised yesterday’s march march, said, “We want to send a message to the city and the government that we, senior residents, support the youngsters and echo their demands.”
The woman who also recently formed a ‘silver haired’ group said he had no party affiliations and that her adult son’s participation in the movement was not the main reason she decided to help organise this march of elders.
Since early June, the youth have led a series of protests against the bill which would allow suspected criminals to be extradited to jurisdictions that do not currently have an extradition agreement with Hong Kong, which include mainland China. Critics have strongly argued that this would infringe upon the freedoms Hong Kong is granted under the “Two System, One Country” policy.
Though largely peaceful, the some parts of the rallies have devolved into confrontations between the protesters and police. SCMP quoted several lawmakers who said they were spray with pepper spray solution while trying to break-up altercations between protesters and police while the Hong Kong Journalist Association has lodged a complaint of police violence against media personnel covering the events on the ground.
Clashes were reported in a mall in the Sha Tin district on Sunday (14 July) which was particularly violent, leaving 23 injured including 10 police officers.
“The anger of youngsters was provoked by the unmoving government, which turned a blind eye to our demands after millions took to the streets peacefully,” said Yeong Po-hei.
When asked about her feelings on the violence, Yeung said, “For sure, we want rallies to stay peaceful. But it comes with conditions … It was the government that refused to act and avoid violent clashes.”
Tam Kwok-sun, another co-organiser said he does not support the use of violence but understand why some people have resorted to it. The root of the problem, says Tan, lies in the government’s failure to address public demands.
Patrick Liu, a 65 retiree who was also marching said, “I understand some youngsters have resorted to violence to grab more attention, after they found peaceful protests could no longer move the government.”
Also present at the march was wheelchair-bound Lo Siu-lan. The 82-year-old has previously taken the government to court over the privatisation of shopping centres and car parks in 2004. On the current events, she voiced her support for the youngsters who are fighting for the public and called them ‘successors’.
“Carrie Lam is incapable. She has to step down now!” the octogenarian added.
Former chief investigator of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Stephen Char Shik-Ngor shared his disappointment with the government led by Carrie Lam, pointing out how ‘irresponsible’ it is to push the police to the opposite side of citizens and ‘tear the entire city’.
He noted the irony that no one has been held responsible for the bill even though the government has an accountability system in place. He echoed calls for the bill to be fully withdrawn and for an independent investigation into the police use of force against protesters.
Hong Kong’s seniors are ardently dispelling the myth that only the youth are making a stand.