It was to be their first day of class, but instead, tens of thousands of Hong Kong university and middle school students turned up at peaceful rallies on Sept. 2 to vent their frustrations against the government, as the city entered its fourth month of mass demonstrations.
The boycott followed a weekend of heightened violence as police were heavily criticized for charging at protesters inside a subway station and train cars, spraying passengers with pepper spray and beating them with batons. On the streets, police fired tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets at a small group of hard-core protesters who threw petrol bombs and burned barricades.
Several brief skirmishes erupted by the night of Sept. 2, as police fired tear gas to clear protesters in the densely populated Mong Kok region of the Kowloon peninsula.
Earlier in the afternoon, more than 4,000 middle school students from 230 schools participated in a rally in Hong Kong’s central financial district.
“Our teachers and parents are worried that we might be arrested or be beaten, but we aren’t afraid,” a student surnamed Cheng told the Hong Kong bureau of The Epoch Times at the rally.
“If we don’t speak out now, it’s very possible we won’t have the chance in the future. We’d be completely gagged. At that time, it would be even scarier.”
Matthew Cheung, Hong Kong government chief secretary, told reporters that schools were no place for protests.
At the same time, about 30,000 university students rallied at the campus of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) under the banner “Students in Unity Boycott for our City.”
Brenda Kam Hoi Yan, student leader of CUHK’s Shaw College, told The Epoch Times at a separate rally held at CUHK on Sept. 2: “Our government is more and more tough. It even used the water cannon vehicle to attack people.
“We believe that the government will institute a strong crackdown … before Oct. 1, [Hong Kong’s] National Day. Facing the white terror, we must stand up, otherwise we won’t have a chance to enjoy the freedom [we have today].”
Elsewhere, more than 40,000 Hongkongers filled Tamar Park, adjacent to government headquarters, to attend a peaceful rally that formed part of a two-day citywide strike.
Late Sept. 2, hundreds of protesters surrounded a police station in the entertainment district of Mong Kok, prompting police to fire tear gas and make a string of arrests.
The vice-chairman of the Demosisto pro-democracy movement, Isaac Cheng, was beaten by three unidentified men while on his way home on the evening of Sept. 2 and taken to hospital, the group said in a statement.
The group’s leader, Joshua Wong, was one of the prominent leaders of the 2014 mass pro-democracy protests known as the Umbrella Movement. Wong was among a group of prominent activists and lawmakers who were arrested on Aug. 30 on charges relating to unlawful assembly during previous protests, in what many see as an attempt by authorities to orchestrate a climate of fear to discourage protesters from coming out.