Hong Kong protests: class boycotts planned at 10 universities by student union leaders

Agence France-Presse

Calls for students to skip the first two weeks of classes are meant to force the government to respond to the five demands

Agence France-Presse |

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Students from 10 local universities are expected to join a class boycott next month. Photo: K. Y. ChengStudents from 10 local universities are expected to join a class boycott next month.

Hong Kong university student leaders said on Thursday they’ll call for a boycott of the start of classes to pressure the government to respond to the protest movement gripping the city since June.

Student union leaders from 10 universities said they want students to skip the first two weeks of classes next month. They vowed to escalate their action if Chief Executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, fails to respond by September 13.

Young people have been at the forefront of the city’s protest movement, which was sparked by calls for the withdrawal of an unpopular extradition bill.

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The bill, which would have allowed suspects to be extradited to the mainland where the judiciary is not independent, was eventually shelved. However, the crisis has worsened, with supporters now having four other demands, including full democracy.

“Two weeks should be enough for the government to really think through how to respond to the five demands,” said Kenneth Davin Wong, acting president of the University of Hong Kong’s Students’ Union. The student leaders said they haven’t decided how to step up their action after the first two weeks, but it could include an open-ended general strike.

Also on Thursday, secondary school students took part in a peaceful rally in Central. Hundreds of teenagers, wearing black and holding umbrellas in the oppressive heat, chanted “Liberate Hong Kong” and “Revolution of our times” and called for Lam to step down, before breaking into groups to discuss the city’s political future.

Meanwhile, YouTube on Thursday said it disabled 210 channels that appeared to be part of a coordinated influence campaign against pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

The action by the Google-owned service came this week as Twitter and Facebook accused the Chinese government of backing a social media campaign to discredit Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and create political conflicts in the city.

“We disabled 210 channels on YouTube when we discovered channels in this network behaved in a coordinated manner while uploading videos related to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong,” Shane Huntley of Google’s security threat analysis group said in an online post.

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“This discovery was consistent with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter.”

Twitter and Facebook announced on Monday they had suspended nearly 1,000 active accounts linked to a coordinated influence campaign, while Twitter said it had shut down about 200,000 more before they could inflict any damage.

“These accounts were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground,” Twitter said, referring to the active accounts it shut down.

Facebook said some of the posts from accounts it banned compared the protesters in Hong Kong with Islamic State group militants, branded them “cockroaches”, and alleged they planned to kill people using catapults.