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Hong Kong demonstrators form human chain 30 years after the ‘Baltic Way’ protest against Soviet rule

Tens of thousands of people held hands across Hong Kong late Friday in a dazzling, neon-framed recreation of a pro-democracy ‘Baltic Way’ protest against Soviet rule three decades ago.

The city’s skyscraper-studded harbour-front as well as several busy shopping districts were lined with peaceful protesters, many wearing surgical masks to hide their identity and holding Hong Kong flags or mobile phones with lights shining.

The human chain is the latest creative demonstration in nearly three months of rolling protests which have tipped Hong Kong into an unprecedented political crisis.

Protesters wave their cellphones and form a human chain as they take part in an anti-government rally in Central district

More than 39,000 protesters applied to hold hands to demand democratic reforms for the city between 8pm and 9pm today

More than 39,000 protesters applied to hold hands to demand democratic reforms for the city between 8pm and 9pm today

Demonstrators link hands at the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront in Hong Kong with the city's iconic skyline as a backdrop

Demonstrators link hands at the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront in Hong Kong with the city’s iconic skyline as a backdrop

The Hong Kong demonstration is a recreation of a pro-democracy 'Baltic Way' protest against Soviet rule three decades ago

The Hong Kong demonstration is a recreation of a pro-democracy ‘Baltic Way’ protest against Soviet rule three decades ago

Over one million people in three Baltic states linked hands to form a human chain spanning over 370 miles on August 23, 1989

Over one million people in three Baltic states linked hands to form a human chain spanning over 370 miles on August 23, 1989

‘We have tried traditional marches, we have tried more militant acts – although I don’t agree with them – this time we are coming out together to join hands and show that we are all still united,’ Wing, who gave only her first name, told AFP.

The protests started against a bill that would have allowed extradition to China, but have transformed into a wider rejection of Beijing’s increasingly tight grip on the semi-autonomous city and a defence of its unique freedoms.

‘By doing this, we are showing people around the world the high quality of Hong Kongers. What people did 30 years ago, we can also do,’ said Cat Law, a logistic worker in her 60s.

The Baltic Way was one of the largest ever anti-Soviet demonstrations, when more than one million people linked hands to form a human chain spanning over 600 kilometres (370 miles) on August 23, 1989.

Three decades on, the moving show of solidarity continues to inspire activists across the world. 

Hong Kong's skyscraper-studded harbour-front as well as several shopping districts were lined with peaceful protesters

Hong Kong’s skyscraper-studded harbour-front as well as several shopping districts were lined with peaceful protesters

One of the protesters at today's 'human chain' demonstration holds a sign saying 'form an independent enquiry committee

One of the protesters at today’s ‘human chain’ demonstration holds a sign saying ‘form an independent enquiry committee

The 'Hong Kong Way', as the event was called by the locals, was organised by the social media-driven protesters who have turned for the last several days to non-violent means of making their voice heard following a series of bloody clashes

The ‘Hong Kong Way’, as the event was called by the locals, was organised by the social media-driven protesters who have turned for the last several days to non-violent means of making their voice heard following a series of bloody clashes

Pro-democracy protesters have continued rallies in Hong Kong against a now-suspended extradition bill since June 6

Pro-democracy protesters have continued rallies in Hong Kong against a now-suspended extradition bill since June 6

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam has apologised for introducing the bill and declared it "dead", but protests continue

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has apologised for introducing the bill and declared it “dead”, but protests continue

Protesters hold hands standing on the road as they participate in the 'Hong Kong Way' in Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong

Protesters hold hands standing on the road as they participate in the ‘Hong Kong Way’ in Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong

The ‘Hong Kong Way’ was called by the social media-driven protesters who have turned for the last several days to non-violent means of making their voice heard.

According to news website HK01.com, more than 39,754 people signed up on social media for today’s human chain protest, which ran from 8pm to 9pm. More than 2,700 people said they would head to Tsuen Wan MTR station to participate in the event and 1,560 applied to protest outside Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station.  

Protesters young and old chanted ‘Free Hong Kong’ as well as the protest rallying cry ‘Hong Kong, add oil’, while hand sanitiser was passed along the chains in the famously fastidious city.

Demonstrators link hands across a street in Hong Kong to recreate the iconic pro-democracy protest 'the Baltic Way' in 1989

Demonstrators link hands across a street in Hong Kong to recreate the iconic pro-democracy protest ‘the Baltic Way’ in 1989

Demonstrators spread across a street outside the city's famed luxury hotel The Peninsula in Tsim Sha Tsui late Friday

Demonstrators spread across a street outside the city’s famed luxury hotel The Peninsula in Tsim Sha Tsui late Friday

One of the protesters called Cat Law (not pictured), who is a logistic worker in her 60s, said: 'By doing this, we are showing people around the world the high quality of Hong Kongers. What people did 30 years ago, we can also do'

One of the protesters called Cat Law (not pictured), who is a logistic worker in her 60s, said: ‘By doing this, we are showing people around the world the high quality of Hong Kongers. What people did 30 years ago, we can also do’

Another demonstrator, known as Wing, said: 'We have tried traditional marches, we have tried more militant acts - although I don't agree with them - this time we are coming out together to join hands and show that we are all still united'

Another demonstrator, known as Wing, said: ‘We have tried traditional marches, we have tried more militant acts – although I don’t agree with them – this time we are coming out together to join hands and show that we are all still united’

Protesters young and old chanted 'Free Hong Kong' as well as the protest rallying cry 'Hong Kong, add oil'

Protesters young and old chanted ‘Free Hong Kong’ as well as the protest rallying cry ‘Hong Kong, add oil’

Protests had previously slipped into violence, with running street clashes between police and a minority of hardcore demonstrators bringing chaos to a city normally associated with safety and stability.

But an uneasy peace was maintained through a week which started with a huge rally on Sunday, hailed by organisers as proof the movement still draws widespread public support.

Yet Hong Kong remains a city divided. Anger against the government and police runs deep among protesters who are exhausted after months on the street but still conducting near daily actions.

Protesters hold their hands to their eyes in remembrance of a woman who suffered a serious eye injury in a previous clash

Protesters hold their hands to their eyes in remembrance of a woman who suffered a serious eye injury in a previous clash

Demonstrators hold up their smartphones to protest against the extradition bill and call for democratic reforms in Hong Kong

Demonstrators hold up their smartphones to protest against the extradition bill and call for democratic reforms in Hong Kong

Citizens and protesters staged a 'Hong Kong Way' by forming a human chain in support of democracy in Hong Kong Friday

Citizens and protesters staged a ‘Hong Kong Way’ by forming a human chain in support of democracy in Hong Kong Friday

Protests had previously slipped into violence, with running street clashes between police and a minority of hardcore demonstrators bringing chaos to a city normally associated with safety and stability

Protests had previously slipped into violence, with running street clashes between police and a minority of hardcore demonstrators bringing chaos to a city normally associated with safety and stability

But an uneasy peace was maintained through a week which started with a huge rally on Sunday, hailed by organisers as proof the movement still draws widespread public support

But an uneasy peace was maintained through a week which started with a huge rally on Sunday, hailed by organisers as proof the movement still draws widespread public support

Protesters have called for an attempt Saturday to blockade routes to the city’s airport — a potential flashpoint if large numbers come out.

Eight thousand kilometres away in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius – one of the sites of the original anti-Soviet ‘Baltic Way’ protest – a few hundred people staged a rally in support of the Hong Kong protesters, linking hands in the central square.

‘We have to show solidarity with the Hongkongers! They are at the front-line of fighting for freedom and democracy,’ opposition lawmaker Mantas Adomenas, who helped organise the rally, told AFP.

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia on Friday are holding commemorative ‘Baltic Way’ events.

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