About 2,000 Hong Kong senior citizens, including a popular actress, have marched in a show of support for youths at the forefront of month-long protests against a contentious extradition bill in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
The seniors also condemned police for their handling of a protest on Sunday in the Sha Tin district.
That protest was mostly peaceful but ended in mayhem when violent scuffles in a shopping mall saw dozens injured, including a policeman who had a finger bitten off, and more than 40 people detained.
On Wednesday, veteran actress and singer Deanie Ip said police should not use heavy-handed tactics against young protesters, who “have no guns” and were peacefully expressing their frustrations.
“They are young people and they are doing the right thing. Why are they being mistreated?” she said.
Ip and several others held a banner reading “Support youth to protect Hong Kong” as they marched through a financial district.
Wearing white tops and black trousers, they held placards that read “Never give up” and “Stay together”. Some in wheelchairs also joined the march.
Organisers said about 8,000 people participated in the demonstration.
Hong Kong has been jolted for over a month by a series of large-scale and occasionally violent protests amid widespread anger over a proposed extradition law that would send suspects to mainland China to face trial.
The bill is seen as a threat to Hong Kong’s freedoms that were guaranteed for 50 years when China took back control of the former British colony in 1997.
Hong Kong’s embattled leader, Carrie Lam, suspended the bill and declared the legislation “dead”, but it failed to placate the protesters, who have demanded her resignation.
Tens of thousands have continued to take to the streets, with the protests expanding into a bigger movement against China’s growing intrusion into the territory.
The senior citizens repeated demands for the legislation to be formally withdrawn, for the release of dozens of people who were detained and for an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality.
More protests have been planned which could cause further instability in the global financial hub.
Phil Chan, a senior fellow at the Institute for Security and Development Policy in Stockholm, said violent clashes between protesters and police could intensify unless the government starts to engage meaningfully with the people in meeting some of their demands, including the move toward universal suffrage.
“The government at present is merely engaging in verbal dissemblance,” he said. “As the political crisis drags on, it will become increasingly difficult for the Hong Kong government to resolve, and police-community relations will take a long time to heal.
“It will become a lose-lose situation for both Hong Kong society and the Hong Kong government, and instability in Hong Kong can never be good for Beijing.”