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Hong Kong Readies for Further Protests 08/22 06:26

   HONG KONG (AP) -- High school students thronged a square in downtown Hong 
Kong Thursday to rally for political reforms as residents gird for further 
anti-government protests.

   Also Thursday, police charged two people in connection with a shocking 
attack against protesters by assailants with organized crime ties in July while 
major banks called for an end to the political crisis and threw their support 
behind the city's Beijing-backed government.

   Hundreds of teenagers, wearing black and holding umbrellas in the oppressive 
heat, turned out for the rally, one of many demonstrations organized by 
different groups over the coming weeks.

   They chanted "Liberate Hong Kong" and "Revolution of our times" and called 
for Hong Kong's Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, to step down, before 
breaking into groups to discuss the city's political future.

   Hong Kong has been gripped for more than two months by at times violent 
protests led by young people demanding the withdrawal of an unpopular 
extradition bill and full democracy. The bill, which would have seen suspects 
extradited to mainland China where the judiciary is not independent, was 
eventually shelved.

   On Friday, the movement's supporters plan to form human chains across the 
semi-autonomous Chinese city, inspired by a similar event 30 years ago in the 
Baltic states when hundreds of thousands of Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians 
joined together to mourn the loss of independence to Soviet rule.

   Two people have been charged with rioting in connection with the July 21 
attack, Chief Superintendent Tse Chun-chung said at a daily press briefing. 
Masked assailants suspected of ties to organized crime swung bamboo poles and 
steel rods in the rampage, injuring 45 people, which came as a shocking 
escalation of the city's summer of protest.

   Protesters complain about the lack of police progress in investigating the 
attack, which left both protesters and bystanders injured. They've accused 
police of colluding with the attackers by delaying their response, which police 
deny.

   The charges are the first to be filed against the 28 people arrested after 
the attack.

   Tse said police are awaiting legal advice from the Department of Justice on 
charges for the other 26 arrested.

   Major banks in Hong Kong took out advertisements in some newspapers calling 
for an end to the political crisis, signaling the financial industry's support 
for Lam.

   HSBC called for dialogue to resolve differences, in a full page ad in the 
pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po.

   "We are very concerned about recent social events and strongly condemn any 
violence and behavior undermining social order," the bank said, adding it 
"fully supports a peaceful approach to finding solutions."

   Standard Chartered said it opposes violence and "firmly supports" the Hong 
Kong government in effectively maintain social order.

   Bank of East Asia took out a smaller ad with a similar message.


(KR)

 
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