Hundreds of black clad pro-democracy demonstrators chanted “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” outside the High Court on Wednesday as a leading activist appeared to appeal a six-year jail sentence for rioting in 2016.
The court’s walls were scrawled with graffiti reading: “History will absolve us”, “If we burn you burn with us” and “No turn back 4HK”.
The Chinese-ruled financial hub is struggling to recover from a weekend of violent clashes between police and tens of thousands of protesters, with parts virtually cut off due to a paralyzed metro that was a target of vandalism amid four months of often violent unrest.
Scores of shops were boarded up after also being trashed or torched, and more protests are expected in coming days.
Some streets were littered with broken glass and twisted metal debris.
On Wednesday, some 200 protesters staged a shopping mall demonstration in the New Territories district of Ma On Shan.
The peaceful rally saw protesters sitting or standing and chanting “Stand with Hong Kong, fight for freedom”.
The protests began in opposition to a now withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to be sent to China, but have broadened into a pro-democracy movement amid fear that Beijing is undermining Hong Kong’s freedoms.
Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula, which gives it wide-ranging autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland.
The unrest is the worst political crisis 1997 and the biggest challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came into power in 2012.
Edward Leung, 27, one of the leaders of a movement advocating independence from China, and two other activists in 2016 received the harshest sentences handed down to pro-democracy leaders since 1997.
In his appeal, Leung’s lawyer argued his sentence was disproportionate to his offence, citing other more violent protesters receiving lighter sentences.
His case was adjourned on Wednesday ahead of judgment.
Outside the court, hundreds of protesters wore black masks in defiance of colonial-era emergency laws banning face coverings, which were brought in on Friday to quell the unrest but which have incited more violence.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Tuesday did not rule out asking China, which has troops in barracks in Hong Kong, for help to end the unrest, with Hong Kong’s economy hit hard and facing its first recession in a decade.
Many malls closed early to prevent protesters gaining entry. More than 200 shops and public utilities had been damaged in the weekend’s violent clashes.
More than 100 restaurants have closed in the past month, putting around 2,000 people out of work, a representative from an association of catering professionals told public broadcaster RTHK.
Authorities have described protesters as “militant activists”, but many Hong Kong residents are also angry at the emergency powers, fearing their civil rights could be eroded.
More than 2,300 people have been arrested since June, while two teenagers have been shot and wounded in skirmishes with police. Scores of people, including police, have been injured.
Hong Kong’s unrest has started to affect global companies and sport, with luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co and U.S. sports brand Vans withdrawing an advertisement and shoe design seen as favouring protesters. (Reuters/NAN)
(Edited by Fatima Sule/Emmanuel Yashim
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