Thousands gathered outside Pacific Place mall in Admiralty on Monday night to pay tribute to a protester who died a year ago.
Anti-extradition law protester Marco Leung fell to his death from a podium at the mall last June 15 as he demonstrated against the ill-fated legislation.
Leung became a protest icon after his banner laid out the five main demands of the movement.
The yellow poncho that Leung wore at the time of his death also became an emblem during the year-long demonstrations and unrest, as protesters demanded an independent probe into the police conduct, amnesty for those arrested, a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots” and full democracy.
“Today we mourn for Leung. Tomorrow we mourn for freedom,” a message among a pile of white memorial flowers read on Monday.
Around the sea of floral tributes, handwritten messages were scattered around the area with one that said: “Not one less.”
A yellow poncho with message that read: “He was killed by tyranny” was displayed at an advertisement light box.
As night fell, a large sea of black-clad protesters holding flowers formed long queues in front of the mall waiting to pay their respects.
By around 8pm, the queue snaked up towards Mid-levels, along Hong Kong Park through to the Peak Tram Lower Terminus.
Aside from the long queues outdoors, protesters also gathered inside the mall to chant slogans such as “Hong Kong independence, the only way out” as they sang the protest anthem “Glory to Hong Kong.”
Some protesters also waved flags that read “Hong Kong independence” and “We are not rioters.”
The shopping mall broadcast a public announcement throughout the evening that requested crowds to leave, citing the Covid-19 group gathering ban.
Several yellow ponchos – each written with the names and ages of those who died during the protests – were hung inside the mall.
Protesters distributed white ribbons for memorial participants to pin on their clothes. Others displayed posters and infographics about a vote that is set to take place this Saturday on whether to go on strike over the impending national security law.
Ms Chiu, an attendee, wore a black t-shirt that read “1/2,000,001” – a reference to Leung and the historic two million marchers, who organisers say turned up to a protest the day after his death.
“Leung sacrificed his life as he insisted [on] the protest five demands,” Chiu told HKFP. “Hongkongers’ resistance morale is heightening and we are building up this solidarity day by day.”
Activist Sunny Cheung was also among the crowd queuing to pay tribute. He told HKFP that he thought Leung’s death was very heavy and served as a wake up call for Hongkongers to realise that fighting for democracy required huge sacrifices.
“You can’t kill us all. They can use those ridiculous and absurd policies to ban us from having rallies, but they can’t really change our mind,” Cheung told HKFP. He added that he thought the thousands who turned up sent a strong message to the government: “We are so determined and united to fight for what we want. And we can give assurance that, even if the government is going to do whatever they want – to repress us by all means – we won’t give up.”
Pro-democracy lawmaker Ray Chan told HKFP that he saw hope among the memorial participants: “The government may think that one year has passed and Hong Kong people will forget [about] the evil bill, but you see most Hong Kong people here will not forget,” he said. “We are still fighting for the five demands.”
A heavy police presence remained in the area throughout the night. The force wrote on Facebook that they would take resolute action, claiming the scene was an unauthorised assembly. “Please disperse peacefully and stop all unlawful acts,” they wrote.
The crowd dispersed peacefully when the last person in the queue paid tribute at around 11:30pm.
Lam video message
As protesters gathered, the government published a video message from Chief Executive Carrie Lam in which she condemned protesters and urged Hongkongers to support the looming national security law.
“Over the past year, the Hong Kong community has been traumatised. Violence by rioters has escalated, with illegal firearms and explosives posing a terrorist threat,” she said. “Groups and individuals advocating “Hong Kong independence” and colluding with foreign forces to interfere with Hong Kong’s affairs have seriously undermined national interests and security.”
Beijing has revealed plans to promulgate laws to prevent, stop and punish behaviours in Hong Kong that it deems a threat to national security. The laws will likely be inserted into the city’s mini-constitution, bypassing the local legislature, in order to criminalise subversion, secession, foreign interference and terrorism. The move has alarmed democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China.
Additional reporting: Tom Grundy.
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