Occupy protesters return to scene in their hundreds to mark fourth anniversary of Hong Kong pro-democracy movement
Street booths, banners and yellow umbrellas reappear outside government headquarters in Admiralty, in scenes reminiscent of 2014 protests
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Hong Kong on Friday to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Occupy pro-democracy campaign, calling on the public to keep the fighting spirit going.
Street booths, banners and yellow umbrellas reappeared outside the government headquarters in Admiralty, in scenes reminiscent of the 2014 protests.
There was added bite to this year’s anniversary rally, with nine Occupy leaders set to go on trial in November on charges of inciting others to create a public nuisance. The movement’s three co-founders also face an additional charge of conspiring to create a public nuisance.
Of the trio, Professor Chan Kin-man was the only one at the rally. Benny Tai Yiu-ting was in Europe appealing to the international community to help protect the city’s cherished freedoms while Reverend Chu Yiu-ming was in hospital with gastrointestinal problems.
The 79-day sit-ins brought parts of the city to a standstill, a month after Beijing laid down the stringent August 31 framework for Hong Kong’s political reform. Police sprayed tear gas on protesters the first evening.
Chan, who called the charges unfair and an infringement on civil rights, vowed to use the trial as an opportunity to restore history.
“The real incitements were the August 31 framework, [then chief executive] Leung Chun-ying and the 87 canisters of tear gas,” he said.
Facing the possibility of being jailed, he said: “I have no complaints or regrets. I am proud of the Umbrella Movement … that was the proudest moment of my life.
“When have we ever witnessed Hongkongers being so selfless and united in taking to the streets for our beliefs? If it has awoken the conscience of Hongkongers, it is worth me being imprisoned.”
Addressing the crowd, Demosisto’s Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Occupy’s poster boy, said the story had to be passed to youngsters who had not experienced it.
“Although we failed to move the regime, we succeeded in winning public hearts,” he said, urging the city not to forget the glory days.
Also addressing the crowd were two members of the group Students Independence Union, with about 10 mostly masked people behind them on stage waving “Hong Kong independence” banners.
The duo – Wayne Chan Ka-kui and Joey Lui – made clear their pro-independence stance, despite the Hong Kong National Party having been banned by the government on Monday on grounds of national security.
“Hong Kong independence is a road we must walk along in the future … no matter how the government suppresses us, we insist on our independence advocacy,” Chan said, adding they would turn to the international community to “expose the ugly face of the Chinese Communist Party”.
“Die for Hong Kong independence,” they chanted.
Several policemen recorded their speech.
Meanwhile, protesters returned to the site they had occupied for 79 days in the name of democracy.
One of them, Anthony Kwok, distributed little yellow paper umbrellas he and a friend had folded.
“Four years ago, I was right there down the road teaching people to fold these,” Kwok recalled. “I come every year. This is continuity … people may pick one [paper umbrella] up, take a snap and post it on social media, letting the world know we still care.”
Although he noted many protesters were frustrated that the movement failed to move Beijing, he believed there was a need to carry on. “If we don’t work hard, there is no hope for sure.”
Another protester surnamed Chan worked at a booth printing protest slogans on people’s umbrellas – also repeating his efforts from four years ago.
“I want to help anyone who want a slogan to remember the movement … I will work until no one comes,” he said.
Joining the rally was a mainland Chinese visitor surnamed Kang, who came from Guangzhou to show her support in the fight for democracy.
At 6pm, hundreds gathered to watch about 30 lawmakers and activists on stage observe three minutes of silence to mark the moment riot police fired tear gas at protesters.
Audio recordings from four years ago were played on speakers.
Organiser James Hon Lin-shan said the stage was open to all. He believed about 3,000 people in total had joined the evening rally and visited booths which had been open since noon.
Police estimated the turnout of the rally at 430.
The reform package decreed by Beijing was eventually voted down by opposition pan-democrats in the city’s legislature in 2015.