Hundreds gathered outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong Thursday to mark the third anniversary of mass pro-democracy rallies known as the Umbrella Movement, as fears grow over Beijing’s tightening grip on the city.

Tens of thousands blocked major thoroughfares in the city for 79 days starting September 28, 2014 to call for fully free leadership elections in the city, in a movement spearheaded by student leaders who have since been jailed for their involvement.

Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

Hundreds of people raised yellow umbrellas at 5:58pm Thursday as smoke was generated from a machine, to mark the time when police fired teargas at protesters, and audio recordings from three years ago were played on speakers.

Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

“I want universal suffrage, civil disobedience!” crowds shouted.

Photo: Tom Gurndy/HKFP.

“There’s more younger people coming out, it’s a good thing,” Anthony Kwok, 52, who attended the event told AFP.

A banner opposing political oppression. Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

“We must be unified in our next step forward,” Kwok, a part-time bartender said.

Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

“In the past years the government propaganda machine has been in overdrive, I don’t want my son to only hear one side of the argument,” Carmen Yu, 47, who attended Thursday’s rally with her child, told AFP.

Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

Crowds also applauded the jailed student leaders.

Activists write messages for the jailed protesters. Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

The face of the movement Joshua Wong, former lawmaker Nathan Law and fellow protest leader Alex Chow were sent to prison in August for their leading role in the initial protest that sparked the Umbrella Movement.

Activists write messages for the jailed protesters. Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

Their jailing has been slammed by international rights groups and politicians and has prompted accusations that the independence of Hong Kong’s courts has been compromised under pressure from Beijing.

A man watches footage from the protests in 2014. Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

“Being locked up is an inevitable part of our long, exhausting path to democracy,” Joshua Wong wrote from prison for The Guardian newspaper.

Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

“In the past, when we spoke of political detainees under the Chinese Communist party, we were referring to dissidents in mainland China. Yet as Hong Kong ushers in a heightened authoritarian era, to advocate human rights is to risk becoming a political detainee. This is the new normal,” Wong added.

Civic Square. Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

Amnesty International said Hong Kong authorities must end prosecutions which were aimed at having a “chilling effect” on the freedom of speech in the city.

Occupy convener Chan Kin-man. Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

The government has vehemently denied there was political interference in the decision by the Court of Appeal to overturn previous non-custodial terms for Wong, Law and Chow.

Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow. File photo: In-Media.

The court jailed them for six to eight months after a sentencing review brought by the department of justice.

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