Exiled pro-democracy activists Ray Wong and Brian Leung spoke to crowds gathered in Central on Friday via pre-recorded video messages, urging Hongkongers to stay united and seek international support.
The Chater Garden rally, under the banner “Stand with Hong Kong – Power to the People,” was organised by the Hong Kong Higher Institutions International Affairs Delegation – a group of students from 12 local universities and colleges.
Organisers estimated that 60,000 attended, while police put the peak turnout at 7,100.
The gathering marked the beginning of the 11th weekend of protest against the ill-fated extradition bill.
Organisers sought to escalate the Hong Kong protests to an international level, as they called upon the US Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act – which would sanction top officials over human rights abuses.
Brian Leung, who is studying a doctoral degree in the US, was one of the only protesters who chose to unmask himself during the controversial storming of the legislature on July 1.
Appearing for the first time since the incident, he emphasised the need for Hongkongers to maintain their sense of community.
“Only when everyone’s suffering is our own, and when every sacrifice is for us all, will a community emerge. We honour their sacrifice, recognising and passing on their spirit in every protest,” he said.
“As long as we keep on shouldering each other’s suffering and having their sacrifice at heart, Hongkongers shall persist as a community, however much we stretch the boundaries of space and time.”
Leung added that the movement cannot rely only on clashes against police, and needed to “outsmart” the government with more imaginative acts of resistance.
Ray Wong, who was granted asylum in Germany along alongside fellow activist Alan Li, said in another video message that he felt he was living in a “parallel universe”: the European youngsters around him were filled with hope, he said, unlike Hongkongers who were struggling to find hope.
“Hong Kong is part of the free world, and with this series of events this summer, western societies have already realised our importance to the free world: Hong Kong stands at the forefront against authoritarian regimes,” Wong said.
“Therefore, all Hongkongers, you are shouldering the responsibility to save the world.”
Wong ended his message with a “dream” of returning to the city, going to the Legislative Council protest zone, taking off his mask and embracing Hongkongers.
60000 citizens gathered at Central peacefully without any clash. We urge US Congress to pass #HKHumanRightsandDemocracyAct and Gov must stop export tear gas to HK Police. HK is not only a city under Beijing’s rule. Here is the global city with people deserve freedom. pic.twitter.com/2BqsRiF7Vb
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 (@joshuawongcf) August 16, 2019
Separately, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU) organised a march for teachers on Saturday morning, which drew 22,000 despite the amber rainstorm warning. Police put the turnout at 8,300 at its peak.
PTU president Fung Wai-wah said that this was the first march specifically for teachers since the protests began in June, and that many teachers were deeply concerned about student protesters and wanted to “guard the next generation.”
The teachers held a rally at Chater Garden before marching to Government House, the official residence of Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
Meanwhile, activist groups – including the political group Demosisto – are planning a class boycott for when school resumes in September. The Education Bureau has already expressed disapproval for any class boycott.
In a tweet, Secretary-general Joshua Wong said: “In order to maximize the pressure to Gov, class boycotts is our inevitable step to reiterate our calls on free-election, withdraw extradition bill & stop police brutality. Isaac Cheng from Demosisto invites students to start boycott actions once their schools start on Sep 2.”