Members of various civic groups and pro-democracy parties gathered outside the government headquarters in Admiralty on Thursday to mark the third anniversary of the Occupy campaign.
Representatives from more than 40 organizations took part in the event, holding yellow umbrellas and banners and listening to audio recordings of speeches from the past.
The organizer said more than 1,000 people turned up for the rally, although police estimated the number to be about 500, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The Occupy pro-democracy protests, also known as the Umbrella Revolution, officially began on Sept. 28, 2014.
The campaign, which saw thousands camping out in the streets, was aimed at forcing Chinese authorities into allowing Hong Kong people to choose their leader through genuine universal suffrage.
The demonstrations, where students took an active role, drew mass outpouring of support from ordinary citizens, helping the protest turn into a crippling street occupation that would last 79 days.
Talks between protest leaders and the government collapsed and the campaign eventually ground to a halt in mid-December 2014.
The end of the occupation was followed by mass arrests and prosecutions of protest leaders and other participants.
In the commemoration event Thursday, people stood in silence for three minutes at 5:58 pm, the exact time when police first used tear gas against the protesters three years ago.
Unlike the past two annual rallies for the same purpose, the three student leaders who spearheaded the 2014 protest — Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang — were not present at yesterday’s gathering.
That is because all three have been jailed since last month for storming the Civic Square outside the government’s office compound several days before the Occupy movement began.
Benny Tai Yiu-ting, Chan Kin-man and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, the trio who inspired the movement, were all present to give pep talks to the participants and other pro-democracy activists.
The Occupy co-founders attended the event although they are facing court trials after being charged with conspiracy to cause public nuisance, inciting others to cause public nuisance, and inciting people to incite others to cause public nuisance.
Tai said it is a fact that Hong Kong is now under authoritarian rule.
But any form of repression will lose much of its power as long as Hongkongers stand up against intimidation from the regime, he said.
Tai, who is an associate law professor at the University of Hong Kong, slammed the appellate court, accusing it of delivering rulings based on political reasons. He cited recent cases that saw more than a dozen pro-democracy activists end up getting jail sentences.
The academic said he and other Occupy co-founders are prepared for jail time.
Chan, an associate professor of sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the government has been trying to use the judiciary as a tool to instill fear among the public.
If anyone is jailed for fighting for democracy, the person should remain composed, he said.
Reverend Chu, meanwhile, stressed that he will keep fighting through civil disobedience, and that he has the courage to take the journey to the end.
In related news, student leader Joshua Wong told The Guardian in an interview that he hopes the world will never forget Hong Kong and the street protests that took place in the city three years ago.
Chow said from prison that the fight for democracy in Hong Kong will never lose its power. He called on people who share the same idea as him to join a demonstration on Sunday, when China will mark its National Day.
Organizers of the planned Oct. 1 march are said to have received a no-objection letter from the police for the event, which will start at 3 pm.
The organizers expect around 20,000 people to participate in the rally, marching from Victoria Park in Causeway Bay to the government headquarters in Admiralty.
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