Heavyweights from the pan-democratic camp descended on Central yesterday to support the remaining four participants in a hunger strike being carried out as part of the fight for democracy.
Of the 17 legislators and political party representatives who began the protest on March 28 outside HSBC headquarters in Central, 13 have given up.
The four remaining are: Democratic Party legislator Wu Chi-wai and fellow democrat Andrew Wan Siu-kin, and Labour Party members Alex Kwok Siu-kit and Lam Cho-ming.
By 6pm yesterday, they had not eaten for 220 hours.
During a rally earlier yesterday, some 30 supporters gathered outside HSBC headquarters and chanted "true universal suffrage" and "no screening [of candidates]" to show support for the hunger strikers. They also staged a drama, in which a mock stone column was pressed onto a row of eggs without the eggs breaking.
"The message is that if we are united, there is no need for us to fear - no matter how great the pressure is," said Lee Cheuk-yan of the Labour Party, who helped to co-ordinate the hunger strike.
Addressing the rally, Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing, who did not participate in the hunger strike, urged the strikers to take care. "The road to democracy is never easy," Lau said.
Calling from Canada, where he will deliver speeches and hold meetings on democratic progress in Hong Kong, veteran Democrat Martin Lee Chu-ming also addressed the Central rally. Hong Kong had reached a "make or break" stage, Lee said, urging people to spare no effort in the fight for democracy.
"If we do not do something now, Hong Kong's core values like rule of law and press freedom could be gone very soon," said Lee.
Alan Leong Kah-kit of the Civic Party, which was not represented in the hunger strike, said he would tell mainland cadres how strong their determination for universal suffrage was during a visit by pan-democratic lawmakers to Shanghai later this week.
Others who showed up to offer support included veteran Democrats James To Kun-sun, Dr Yeung Sum, Cheung Man-kwong, and Sin Chung-kai.
The public response yesterday was tepid, with passers-by showing little interest in the rally.
Some radicals within the pro-democracy camp criticised the fact that the strikers were drinking water and energy drinks.
One activist, Ronald Leung Kam-shing, had planned to host a hotpot meal at the HSBC headquarters yesterday evening to mock the hunger strikers. The meal was called off because of bad weather.
"There are many ways for us to fight for democracy," said Andrew Wan, one of the hunger strikers. "But if we do not join forces in the battle and only want to beat each other, we will end up achieving nothing."
Cyd Ho Sau-lan of the Labour Party, who fasted for three days as part of the strike, also called for unity. "I hope all sectors of society can be united to fight for democracy," she said.
The hunger strike is part of the pan-democrats' fight for what they consider a genuinely democratic chief executive election. They will not accept any election in which pan-democratic hopefuls are screened out by a nominating committee. Beijing has said the chief executive could be decided by universal suffrage from 2017, but agreement on the details has proved elusive.
Lee Cheuk-yan said a second hunger strike was being planned for next month.