Hong Kong protesters belt out songs in shopping malls

HONG KONG (AP) — Thousands of Hong Kong people belted out a new protest song in karaoke-style at shopping malls in the latest act of resistance that highlighted the creativity of demonstrators in their months-long fight for democratic freedoms.

Late Wednesday, activists and ordinary citizens sang at several malls for a third straight night in a respite from recent violence clashes. More protests are expected this weekend, though yesterday police banned one planned rally, citing safety concerns.

The protesters have adopted the song, penned anonymously, as their anthem. The lyrics reflect protesters’ vow not to surrender despite a government concession to axe an extradition bill that sparked the summer of unrest.

At the New Town Plaza in Sha Tin district, some 2,000 people spread across several floors chanted slogans before breaking out into song in an emotional scene, with some crying with their hands to their hearts while others lifted their hands in the air.

Many referred to lyrics on their phone as they sang.

Local residents sing a theme song written by protesters at a shopping mall in Hong Kong. PHOTO: AP

The crowd included families with young children, students and senior citizens, many of them not wearing masks, the usual attire of protesters. The busy mall is linked to a subway station where police fired tear gas last Sunday after protesters vandalised the station.

Local media showed singing taking place in at least seven other malls, as well as in some spots including outside a subway station. The South China Morning Post said participants responded to online calls to gather and sing. Police were absent and the gatherings dispersed peacefully.

The song has been sung at almost every protest since it emerged August 31, including during a World Cup qualifier match on Tuesday. The sing-alongs have boosted protesters’ morale and highlighted their creativity in inventing new ways to get their message heard by the authorities.

Yesterday, hundreds of supporters staged a counter protest during lunchtime at a swank mall downtown, singing the Chinese national anthem and waving national flags.

Protesters have widened their demands to include calls for direct elections for the city’s leaders and police accountability.

The Civil Human Rights Front, which has organised several massive rallies, said yesterday it is appealing the police ban on its planned march on Sunday.

Police had also banned the group’s August 31 march but protesters turned up anyway. Violent clashes erupted that night, with police storming a subway car and hitting passengers with batons and pepper spray.

Front coordinator Bonnie Leung said police noted the proposed route would pass close to high-risk buildings including the police headquarters, government offices and subway stations that have been a focus of protests in recent weeks.

She said police also told the group they cannot stop protesters from breaking away and carrying out illegal violent acts.

But Leung said violent clashes were unrelated to the group. “We create a safe zone for people to protest. Our marches are like Hong Kong people giving a chance to the government to end the crisis peacefully but now, they have closed the valve to release public anger.

“It’s like declaring war to peaceful protesters,” she told the Associated Press.

Leung accused authorities of trying to provoke protesters to carry out illegal gatherings to find an excuse to crack down. She urged activists “not to fall into the trap”, saying protests can be in many forms and that they should keep safe to sustain the protest movement.