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Hong Kong protesters plan a virtual rally during virus outbreak

  • Natalie Lung

    Bloomberg

Hong Kong   /   Fri, February 28, 2020   /   10:14 am
Hong Kong protesters plan a virtual rally during virus outbreak People wearing protective face masks walk through a market in the wan chai district of Hong Kong on Feb. 25, 2020. (AFP/ISAAC LAWRENCE )

The coronavirus outbreak has forced thousands of companies and schools to operate remotely in Hong Kong. Now the city’s protesters are planning to go virtual in a bid to sustain their movement’s momentum.

The Hong Kong Civil Assembly Team, a pro-democracy group that’s held more than 10 rallies since historic pro-democracy demonstrations began in the Asian financial hub last June, announced it would hold an online rally Saturday to mark the six-month anniversary of riot police’s August 31 storming of a subway station.

Citizens have been holding vigils to commemorate the incident on the last day of each month, bringing white flowers and candles to the station, in Kowloon’s Prince Edward neighborhood. Protesters have alleged that fatalities resulted from the altercation, while authorities have denied it.

Pro-democracy district councilors, activists and several musicians supportive of the protest movement have been invited to speak and perform via online broadcast during Saturday’s virtual gathering.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam saw her approval rating sink to a record low of just 9.1% this week as her government faces criticism over its handling of the outbreak. Activists, including the Civil Assembly Team’s spokesperson Ventus Lau, believe the pressure on Lam fuels more support for their cause.

Months of large-scale demonstrations were sparked by a now-withdrawn bill allowing extraditions to China and soon grew into calls for greater democracy and police accountability in the former British colony. But they have died down in recent months as the deadly virus outbreak, which has infected nearly 80,000 people in the mainland and 91 so far in Hong Kong, keeps people away from public gatherings.

Isolated protests and clashes have occurred in the past few weeks in opposition to the government’s choice of quarantine sites near residential neighborhoods.