Hundreds of financial workers braved pouring rain to gather in central Hong Kong Thursday, giving that sector’s support to mass protests that have roiled the territory for weeks.
According to organisers on the messaging app Telegram, workers from around 80 banks gathered at Chater Gardens in the heart of the financial district and more than 700 workers posted photos of their staff cards to declare they would also join a city-wide strike called for next Monday.
Over a thousand people flashed their mobile phone torches through umbrellas Thursday night to create a spontaneous light show, and chanted “add oil” — a slogan that offers encouragement to protesters.
Participants said they were angered by alleged cooperation between police and gangsters last month, when a gang of white-clad suspected triad members armed with poles attacked anti-government protesters and bystanders in Yuen Long, a border town near the mainland.
Police were accused of reacting too slowly to the incident and being too lenient with the thugs.
“There is too much evidence that leads to police-triad collusion,” KS Wong, who works at HSBC retail banking, told AFP.
“Foreign investors are confident in our market as they are confident in our rule of law, but if there is police-triad collusion… it means there is a big problem on our rule of law,” Wong added.
Dozens of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters appeared in court Wednesday after being charged with rioting, setting the stage for further unrest in a weeks-long crisis that has rocked the global financial hub.
Semi-autonomous Hong Kong has endured more than seven weeks of unrest that began with a government bid to introduce a law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.
The government has shown no sign of backing down beyond agreeing to suspend the extradition bill.
The demonstrations have since evolved into a call for wider democratic reforms and a halt to eroding freedoms.
In Central’s Chater Garden, even members of the finance industry—famously indifferent to politics and social issues—are gathering to voice their opposition to the extradition bill and their support for the 5 demands. pic.twitter.com/6Bc7CTLyoJ
— Ryan Ho Kilpatrick 何松濤 (@rhokilpatrick) August 1, 2019
“It will definitely deteriorate the quality of the banking industry. People will migrate out of Hong Kong together with their property,” a Standard Chartered retail banking staffer, who gave his surname as Lee, told AFP.
Hong Kong protesters have a busy schedule in the coming days with a civil servants’ rally planned for Friday night, pro-democracy demonstrations during the weekend and a large-scale strike on Monday.