Hong Kong seniors rally to back students

RALLY: Riot police officers block the street as anti-government protesters rally outside Prince Edward MTR station in Hong Kong, China, Nov. 30. Reuters

HONG KONG - Secondary school students and retirees joined forces to protest in Hong Kong on Saturday, the first of several weekend rallies planned across the city, as pro-democracy activists vowed to battle what they say are police brutality and unlawful arrests.

A top Hong Kong official said the government was looking into setting up an independent committee to review the handling of the crisis, in which demonstrations have become increasingly violent since they began more than five months ago.

“I came out for the peaceful protest in June when there was more than one million people, but the government did not listen to our demands,” said a 71-year-old woman in Hong Kong’s Central district who only gave her name as Ponn.

She brought her own plastic stool to join a cross-generational protest of a few hundred people at the city’s Chater Garden. Elderly Hong Kongers, some with visors and canes, stood not far from young, black-clad protesters. All listened to pro-democracy speakers in a gathering marked by music and a festive mood.

“I have seen so much police brutality and unlawful arrests. This is not the Hong Kong I know. I came today because I want the government to know that we are not happy with what they have done to our generation,” said Ponn, who attended with her daughter and son-in-law.

Demonstrators are angered by what they see as Chinese interference in freedoms promised when Britain returned Hong Kong to Beijing in 1997.

Although the protests were sparked by an extradition bill that was later scrapped, demonstrators have been making “five demands” that include universal suffrage in choosing the city’s leader and an independent inquiry into police use of force.

People gathered on Saturday to pay their respects at a vigil outside the Prince Edward rail station where some residents believe that protesters were killed by police three months ago. Police have denied that account.

Some in the crowd shouted “revenge” and “five demands."

“They need to release the full CCTV footage of that night,” said D. Wong, a 19-year-old protester holding up his laptop that was playing a film about perceived police brutality.

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