Hong Kong demonstrators donned cartoon masks on Friday as they formed human chains around the city in defiance of a ban on face coverings at rallies.
Gathering along the city’s subway lines hand-in-hand, pro-democracy protesters masqueraded as characters including Winnie-the-Pooh, the Joker and Guy Fawkes.
They held up their phone lights and chanted slogans calling for a ‘revolution of our times’ – a battle cry of the five-month-long movement which has shaken the Chinese city with violent confrontations between protesters and police.
Hong Kong’s protests began in June in opposition to a now-abandoned extradition bill, which would have allowed the transfer of accused criminals to mainland China.
A protester wears a Winnie-the-Pooh mask during a demonstration in Hong Kong on Friday, in which demonstrators formed human chains around the city
Pro-democracy demonstrators held up their phone lights and chanted slogans calling for a ‘revolution of our times’
Over four months, the demonstrations evolved into a pro-democracy movement and an outlet for anger at social inequality in the Asian financial hub.
Chinese internet users have joked that Chinese president Xi Jinping resembles AA Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh – leading the country’s censors to scrub online references to it. Many protesters have been seen wearing masks of the character in an apparent effort to mock the leader.
Fawkes masks have come to represent anti-government protests around the world.
The protests were in opposition to the government’s decision this month to invoke colonial-era emergency regulations banning face masks at rallies as it struggles to contain demonstrations.
The peaceful event comes ahead of a mass rally that organisers are planning on Sunday to press their demands.
A group of pro-democracy demonstrators wore masks of Chinese President Xi Jinping during Friday’s protests
Gathering along the city’s subway lines hand-in-hand on Friday night, protesters masqueraded as characters including Pepe the Frog (left) and a skull (right)
Another pro-democracy protester wore a gas mask and hard hat as she participated in a demonstration on Friday
The peaceful event comes ahead of a mass rally that organisers are planning on Sunday to press their demands
One pro-democracy demonstrator in Hong Kong made a mask of a government form with his glasses punched through it
Police refused to authorise the march, citing risks to public safety and order, but protesters have previously ignored such rejections.
Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam has said the ban on masks, which have become a hallmark of the protests, is aimed at deterring radical behaviour. Offenders can be punished by up to a year in prison.
But the protesters say they wear them out of fear of retribution and concerns that their identities will be shared with China’s massive state security apparatus.
This month, two police shootings that injured teenage protesters, the stabbing of a police officer, and the detonation of a small, remote-controlled bomb close to police officers ratcheted up violence to levels unprecedented since the former British colony reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.
Demonstrators held hands as they attempted form human chains extending 25 miles across Hong Kong by tracing the city’s subway system
Demonstrations in Hong Kong stretched into their fifth month after the Chinese territory’s government invoked emergency powers earlier this month to introduce an anti-mask law
Hong Kong’s protests began in June in opposition to a now-abandoned extradition bill, which would have allowed the transfer of accused criminals to mainland China
Friday’s protests were in opposition to the government’s decision this month to invoke colonial-era emergency regulations banning face masks at rallies
Masked students and protesters gather to form a human chain along a street in Hong Kong on Friday evening
Some protesters assumed the identity of Mr Xi or Hong Kong’s deeply unpopular Beijing-backed leader.
Others wore masks depicting Pepe the Frog, a character that has become a symbol for the Hong Kong protesters who are likely unaware of its association with far-right extremists in the US.
At least one protester parodied NBA basketball star LeBron James. He has been criticised for caving to China’s communist leaders after he suggested free speech can have consequences, following a now-deleted tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of the protests that angered Beijing.
It is unclear if demonstrators achieved their aim. There were gaps in a part of the chain in one city centre location
The protesters’ aim was to form human chains extending 25 miles across Hong Kong by tracing the city’s subway system, mimicking a similar event in August
Protesters say they wear masks out of fear of retribution and concerns that their identities will be shared with China’s massive state security apparatus
Customers in a restaurant watch as masked students and protesters gather to form a human chain along a street in Hong Kong
The protesters’ aim was to form human chains extending 25 miles across Hong Kong by tracing the city’s subway system, mimicking a similar event in August.
It is unclear if they achieved that. There were gaps in a part of the chain in one city centre location.
Also on Friday, Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific said passenger traffic to mainland China last month plummeted 23.2 per cent from a year ago, in the latest sign of the protests’ impact on the city’s tourism industry.
The decline contributed to a 7.1 per cent drop in overall passenger numbers.
Teenager stabbed as he handed out leaflets during Hong Kong pro-democracy protests on Saturday
A man handing out leaflets for a Hong Kong pro-democracy protest was attacked by a knife-wielding assailant who slashed his neck and abdomen on Saturday, days after a leading activist was left bloodied in another street attack.
The injured 19-year-old, wearing black clothes and a black face mask, was knifed near one of the large ‘Lennon Walls’ that have sprung up around the city during months of demonstrations, police said.
Local media images showed the man had been severely injured, with his inner organs visible where his abdomen had been cut in the afternoon incident in northeastern Tai Po district.
Footage posted on social media showed another man holding a knife shortly after the attack and shouting: ‘Hong Kong is part of China… [You] messed up Hong Kong’.
Participants hold US and UK flags during a prayer meeting for wounded protesters at Edinburgh Place in Hong Kong on Saturday
Police said a 22-year-old man had been arrested as they confirmed the age of the victim, who was conscious when he was rushed to hospital for surgery.
‘The man suddenly rushed to my friend and slashed [him] in the neck. Then my friend ran away towards this direction. After that he fell down and was stabbed in the abdomen with a knife,’ a friend of the injured man said.
Plastered in colourful sticky-notes, posters and slogans, ‘Lennon Walls’ have appeared in more than a hundred locations around Hong Kong, often in pedestrian tunnels or near subway stations.
Though the walls are seen as a peaceful protest method, they have also become flashpoints for violence.
In recent months, fights have broken out when groups of men who support the Hong Kong government have tried to tear the posters down, or between people with different political views.
A masked man attends a prayer rally to show support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong on Saturday evening
On Wednesday Jimmy Sham – a leading face of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement – was taken to hospital covered in blood after being attacked with hammers by unidentified thugs.
The Civil Human Rights Front, which Sham leads, had applied for permission to hold a peaceful rally on Sunday calling for an independent inquiry into police brutality and universal suffrage, but their request was rejected by the police.
However the march is still expected to take place despite the ban.
Hong Kong’s more than four months of huge and increasingly violent protests were initially sparked by a now-scrapped bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.
They have since snowballed into a wider movement calling for greater democracy and police accountability after Beijing and local leaders took a hard line.
Multiple pro-democracy activists have been attacked by pro-Beijing supporters in recent months, and Sham was also assaulted in August.
As the violence has escalated, hardcore pro-democracy protesters have also begun meting out their own street justice, beating people who vocally disagree with their goals or are viewed to be government loyalists.