Thousands of black-clad students rallied Monday at the start of a two-week boycott of university classes, piling pressure on Hong Kong’s leaders to resolve months of increasingly violent anti-government protests that show no sign of easing.
Students have been the backbone of a movement that sprang up to oppose government plans to allow extraditions to China but has morphed into wider protests against the territory’s unelected leadership.
On Monday, as universities reopened after the summer break, thousands of students boycotted classes and gathered instead in central Hong Kong.
— Galileo Cheng (@galileocheng) September 2, 2019
“Today is the first day of school, but I still want to come out,” a 19-year-old university student named Tommy told AFP.
“I don’t think we will miss anything. This is also a form of learning.”
Earlier Monday, a call for a general strike went largely unheeded, but riot police patrolled some subway stations after protesters briefly disrupted services during rush hour by preventing the train doors from closing.
Elsewhere, secondary school pupils formed human chains at schools, even amid reports of random searches of students by police.
“Hong Kong is our home… we are the future of the city and have to take up responsibility to save it,” said a 17-year-old secondary school student who gave her surname as Wong.
— Badcanto (@Badcanto) September 2, 2019
HKFP reported that riot police descended on La Salle College, a secondary school in Kowloon, and searched the belongings of students protesting outside the school this morning.
St. Mary’s Canossian College was also reportedly denying entry to students with protest-related supplies, some of which they confiscated.
Meanwhile, thousands gathered at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on what would have been the first day of classes to pressure the government to engage with protesters’ demands, RTHK reports.
Organizers put the turnout at 30,000 — a figure that included some alumni, like one mother who had brought her 2-year-old daughter along.
[LIVE] Thousands of university students from different institutes are gathering at the University Mall of @CUHKofficial, marking the start of the 2-week #ClassBoycott to voice their demands to the government. #HongKongProtests #antiELAB #FreedomHK pic.twitter.com/luS5kKLpDU
— Freedom HK (@FreedomHKG) September 2, 2019
“We’re peaceful. We don’t have any violence at all. I want to show my daughter how her older brothers and sisters are doing something for her future,” she said.
Over the weekend the city witnessed some of the worst civic violence in decades as protesters lobbed bricks and petrol bombs at police, who responded with tear gas, water cannon and baton charges.
On Sunday at least a dozen flights were canceled after protesters blocked routes to the airport, although police fended off demonstrators’ efforts to converge on the terminal itself.