Thousands of elderly Hongkongers marched on Wednesday in solidarity with young anti-extradition bill protesters.
Billed as a march for the “silver-haired,” the event drew large crowds to Chater Garden in Central. Organisers said over 9,000 people joined the rally, which ended outside the Admiralty government headquarters. Police said the event turnout was 1,500 at its peak.
Marchers voiced opposition to the now-suspended extradition bill, which would allow Hong Kong to transfer fugitives to mainland China.
Like other protests in recent weeks, the march also reiterated the five core demands put forward by protesters, including calls for an independent investigation into police behaviour and universal suffrage.
Activist Yeung Po-hi, one of the protest organisers, read aloud a statement in support of “our youth in their struggle of no return.”
“In their fight against the extradition bill, our youth brave truncheons, tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, violent arrest and, harsh punishment,” Yeung said. “We are proud of them – their determination, mobilisation and tactics, teamwork and self-organisation.”
The statement also endorsed the storming of the legislature on July 1, describing it as a justifiable response by young people and a “symbolic provocation” to the Chinese Communist Party.
Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, a member of the “Occupy trio” behind the 2014 pro-democracy movement, also addressed the crowd, calling on Chief Executive Carrie Lam to “repent.”
If Lam was “still a human being,” Chu said, she would have “compassion” and stop arresting young protesters and dividing society.
While the event was billed as a silent march, the elderly attendees shouted slogans along the way such as “Carrie Lam step down” and “No rioters, only a tyrannical regime.”
Marchers were encouraged to write their demands on a ribbon, and to tie it to a rack outside the government’s headquarters.
Ms. Chung, a retired civil servant who is over 70, told HKFP that the top priority for the chief executive should be to set up an independent commission of inquiry to examine the clashes over the past weeks.
“[Lam] didn’t agree to do anything. At least, she should first investigate and know what happened. Otherwise, this situation cannot be resolved,” she said.
She also criticised Hong Kong’s civil service, which she said showed a wider trend of “deviating” from established practices.
Mr. Wong, a 65-year-old retired repairman, told HKFP that he was deeply moved by the scene of young protesters smashing into the legislature with a metal cart.
“I felt the cart was like us elderly people, we are just filled with useless cardboard. How can we break the glass? We need a push from the young,” he said.
Wong said that the government forced people to radicalise. “They were targeting the symbol of the regime, and not affecting the lives of normal people,” he said. “I don’t see a problem at all.”
Some seniors told HKFP that young protesters should not target frontline police officers, but many also said that the force was to blame for recent clashes – including the bloody episode in Sha Tin on Sunday.
Mr. and Mrs. Lee, both retirees, said that the situation only escalated because the police surrounded protesters and did not allow them to leave via the MTR station.
The Lees added that the march could correct the misconception that all senior citizens held pro-establishment views.
“This is an all-encompassing movement. Elderly, middle-aged and young people all oppose [Carrie Lam],” Mr. Lee said.
Teaching the elders how to do the youngsters’ protest sign language. All the elders joining in. pic.twitter.com/CBbQ1U3Rig
— Antony Dapiran (@antd) July 17, 2019
Another protest against the extradition law will be held by the Civil Human Rights Front on Sunday.