HONG KONG – Thousands of Hong Kong teachers braved pouring rain to take to the streets on Saturday in a show of support for young people who have been at the forefront of the ongoing anti-government movement that has been roiling the Asian financial hub for the past 11 weeks.
Under a canopy of umbrellas, the protesters, many of them clad in black, marched from Chater Garden in Central, the central business center of Hong Kong, to the Government House; the residence of the city’s embattled top leader Carrie Lam.
The rally was held under the theme of “Safeguard the next generation, let our conscience speak.”
The march started at 11:30 local time (0330 GMT), 15 minutes after the “amber” rain signal – heavy rain exceeding 30 millimeters in an hour – and thunderstorm warning were issued by the authorities.
Protesters chanted slogans like “Protect students, teachers walk with them” and “End police brutality, address people’s demands.”
Speaking to the crowd, Ip Kin-yuen, a lawmaker and chief executive of the union, criticized the police for violently cracking down on young people in protests and the Hong Kong government for failing to address people’s demands surrounding the extradition bill controversy.
He added that the demonstration was meant for teachers to show their care for young people.
The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, which organized the march, said 22,000 attended the event.
It was the second time in two months that Hong Kong teachers took to the streets since a controversial extradition bill plunged the semi-autonomous Chinese city into its biggest political crisis in decades.
The march was one of the three lawful demonstrations taking place in Hong Kong on Saturday. At 15:30, a protest themed “Reclaim our soil, restore our peace” will be held in the residential districts of Hung Hom and To Kwa Wan in Kowloon.
Many shops covered by the protest route were closed earlier than usual in preparation for the march, which would protest against the influx of shopping tour groups from mainland China, which local residents say cause disturbances to their day-to-day life.
Application for holding the protest was initially rejected by police, but organizers later appealed and won their case, although they said they had to make many compromises, including changing the route of the march.
On the other side of the harbor, a pro-Beijing group called Safeguard Hongkong, was set to stage a rally near the Hong Kong government headquarters Saturday afternoon to “fight violence” and “save Hong Kong.”