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Hong Kong protesters form human chains across the city

Hong Kong – Tens of thousands of people formed human chains across Hong Kong Friday night as part of the latest peaceful protest against their embattled government, against Beijing, and to demand democratic reform. Organizers said approximately 135,000 demonstrators linked hands to create the chains, which ran parallel to the city's subway lines on Hong Kong Island, in Kowloon across Victoria Harbor, and across the New Territories near the border with mainland China.

The event, called The Hong Kong Way, was inspired by The Baltic Way, which took place on August 23, 1989, when an estimated two million people held hands across Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to push back against the Soviet Union, call for independence, and attempt to gain international attention. Two years later, in 1991, the Baltic states achieved independence from the USSR.

Protesters hold hands to form a human chain during a rally to call for political reforms in Hong Kong's Central district
Protesters hold hands to form a human chain during a rally to call for political reforms in Hong Kong's central district, August 23, 2019. KAI PFAFFENBACH / REUTERS

Since June 9, Hong Kong has been rocked by protests, violence and chaos. What started out as public opposition to an extradition bill exploded into anger and calls for the resignation of the city's chief executive. Protesters demanded an investigation into police brutality and advocated for greater democratic reform. The unrest raised questions about whether China would deploy the People's Liberation Army or the People's Armed Police, a paramilitary force, to the city. 

The protests took a turn toward non-violence with last Sunday's peaceful rally. An estimated 1.7 million people came out, according to organizers, despite torrential rain and in defiance of a police ban; police said 128,000 people participated.

In Hong Kong's central business district Friday, protesters formed human chains that snaked past the Asian headquarters of many global financial institutions. They chanted some well-worn slogans of the past 11 weeks, including "Let's go, Hong Kong!" and "Revolution of our times!"

In Kowloon, protestors held hands with the city's iconic skyline as a backdrop while others climbed a famous mountain known as Lion Rock, shining lights across the city from the summit — images of which quickly spread across social media. 

"Hong Kong people are showing the spirit of 'keep calm and carry on' in our darkest hours," one of the protest leaders, Bonnie Leung, told CBS News. "Either Beijing is waiting for the movement to die down…or they want to use force to silence us. Bad strategy," she said.

"I ask the world to see Hong Kong clearly. We are no rioters, no independence seekers, no violence makers," Hong Kong pro-democracy legislator Ted Hui told CBS News. "I urge the world to lift the veil Beijing has put on Hong Kong, to know that freedom and democracy are the only thing Hong Kong people are fighting for," he continued.

Hong Kong Protests
Demonstrators hold up their smartphones as they gather at the Hong Kong Space Museum on August 23, 2019. AP

Hong Kong's embattled chief executive Carrie Lam, polling at historically low approval numbers, earlier this week promised to communicate better with protestors.

"We will start immediately a platform for dialogue with people from all walks of life," Lam said, adding, "I and my principal officials are committed to listen to what the people have to tell us, and we want to reach out to the community as soon as possible."

Once regarded as one of the world's most stable financial capitals, Hong Kong is now on the verge of a recession as tourism numbers and retail spending continue to fall.

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