November 8, 2019 / 1:53 AM / 6 days ago

Hong Kong girds for more protests; student in critical condition

HONG KONG, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Hong Kong authorities readied on Friday for a series of student demonstrations and further weekend protests, the latest in more than five months of anti-government unrest that has sparked the Chinese-ruled city’s worst crisis in decades.

Students and young people have been at the forefront of the thousands who have taken to the streets since June to press for greater democracy, among other demands, and rally against perceived Chinese meddling in the Asian financial hub.

“Free Hong Kong, Revolution Now,” read banners held up by some students at a graduation ceremony on Thursday, where many wore banned masks and chanted slogans.

The protests, ignited by a now-scrapped extradition bill for people to be sent to mainland China for trial, have evolved into wider calls for democracy, posing the biggest challenge for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took charge in 2012.

Protesters have thrown petrol bombs and vandalised banks, stores and metro stations, while police have fired rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannon and, in some cases, live ammunition in scenes of chaos.

Notices circulated on social media said students planned a march on Friday at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

A 22-year-old student of the university is still in critical condition, hospital authorities said, after falling from one floor to another in a parking lot during weekend crowd dispersal operations in a district east of the Kowloon peninsula.

Students swarmed the hospital in support of the man, surnamed Chow, to hold prayers and gatherings and at universities across the former British colony.

On Friday evening, schools plan a rally in the eastern working class district of Kwun Tong, protesters said in advertisements.

Protests scheduled over the weekend include ‘Shopping Sunday’ centred on prominent shopping malls, some of which have previously descended into chaos as riot police stormed areas crowded with families and children.

Last weekend anti-government protesters crowded a shopping mall in running clashes with police that saw a man slash people with a knife and bite off part of the ear of a local politician.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula, allowing it colonial freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent judiciary and the right to protest.

China denies interfering in Hong Kong and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble. (Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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