Thousands of older people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Wednesday to call on the city's government to heed the demands of younger protesters and formally withdraw a bill that would allow extradition to mainland China.
The demonstrators converged on Chater Garden in downtown Central district before marching to government headquarters in Admiralty, where they called on the government to announce the formal withdrawal of tabled amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance.
They also want the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam to set up an independent inquiry into the authorities' handling of recent protests, drop all charges against protesters, and allow Hong Kong's seven million population the chance to take part in fully democratic elections.
The organizers said they had called on older people to take part in the "Silver-Haired March" in a show of support for the younger generation, who have been repeatedly targeted by police violence during a series of mass protests that have brought millions onto the city's streets since June 9.
An estimated 9,000 people turned out, carrying banners and signs that read "Supporting Young People to Protect Hong Kong!" and "We Want Genuine Universal Suffrage! Oppose Systemic Violence!"
"We wanted to overturn this idea that there is some kind of intergenerational conflict; that younger and older people are somehow at loggerheads," march organizer Tam Kwok-sun told RFA on Wednesday.
"We are marching to let the whole of society know that everyone should be marching for the goals of freedom and democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, whether they are young or old," he said.
Rev. Chu Yiu-ming, one of the initiators of the 2014 Occupy Central pro-democracy movement, was among the marchers.
Saddened by violence
Participant Yip Tak-han said she has been on every anti-extradition march since the recent wave of protests began on June 9, and has been saddened to see the police use violence on young people.
"What they are doing is right," Yip said. "Why should they be treated in that way?"
"[The government] can hear [the protesters] loud and clear, and yet they pretend they can't, and refuse to respond to any of their demands," she said.
An older woman surnamed Lam said she had also been motivated to march by the failure of the administration to respond to protesters' demands, and over the use of excessive police force on young people in recent protests.
"This government really has failed," she said. "I feel very sad to see our young people in this situation."
"The police are thugs, to be beating up young people like that. Actually, we are peaceful. All of our demonstrations have been peaceful," Lam said.
"Why do they act like that, and then try to make it look like we are the violent ones, the thugs? They're the thugs."
A participant surnamed Cheung said he had come along to look out for his elderly mother on the march, in case of confrontation with pro-Beijing protesters.
"I really found this very moving," Cheung said. "I used to talk about old people being useless, but my views have completely changed as I get older."
Threat to status
Protesters are calling on Lam to formally withdraw amendments tabled to the Legislative Council that would allow the rendition of alleged criminal suspects from Hong Kong to face criminal proceedings in mainland China.
Critics say the move would undermine the legal "firewall" between two very different political and judicial systems and likely call into question Hong Kong's status as a separate trading port.
They also want an amnesty for anyone arrested during mass protests against the amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance in recent weeks.
The amendments are widely seen as a threat to Hong Kong's way of life, which was supposed to have been protected by the "one country, two systems" framework under which the former British colony was handed back to China in 1997.
If they become law, the city could lose its status as a separate legal jurisdiction and trading entity, while journalists, visitors, rights activists, dissidents, democratic politicians, and members of the business community could be targeted for words and actions deemed illegal by Chinese officials.
They could then be extradited to face trial in Chinese courts, which are directly controlled by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Students, march organizers, and pro-democracy lawmakers have all rejected government attempts at initiating discussions, demanding an amnesty for all those arrested in connection with recent protests, an end to the official description of protesters as "rioting", and the formal withdrawal of the planned amendments before the end of the current LegCo term in 2020.
Lam has said the amendments are "dead" and will expire at the end of the current term of the Legislative Council in 2020, but campaigners say her assertion offers no legal guarantees.
Reported by Tseng Yat-yiu for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.