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Asia-Pacific

Human chain in Hong Kong for Baltic Way anniversary

media Protesters in Hong Kong on 18 August 2019 Aly Song/Reuters

Hong Kong braces for anti-government demonstrations on Friday, including an anniversary homage to the 1989 human chain against Soviet rule of the Baltic states.

Accountants in Hong Kong joined the city’s pro-democracy demonstrators on Friday, being the latest profession to back the movement in public.

A few thousand accountants marched to government headquarters brandishing signs with protesters' demands. These include the withdrawal of a bill that would have allowed extraditions to China. The bill has been suspended, but the protests against it have turned into wider calls for greater autonomy from China.

Protest leaders plan action over the weekend, including blocking the airport which was forced to close last week when protesters clashed with police.

Human chain

Protesters plan to create a 40-kilometre-long human chain on Friday evening, called Hong Kong Way, a nod to the 1989 Baltic Way, a chain of about a million people who linked arms for 600 kilometres linking the capitals of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to protest Soviet rule.

The three countries gained independence two years later.

"The 'Baltic Way' brought the world’s attention to their cause and inspired following generations," Hong Kong organisers said in a statement. "We plead that you will not look away at this crucial time. Stand with Hong Kong."

Baltic Chain commemorations

The Baltic Chain inspired similar moves in independence movements and protesters around the world, and the Hong Kong chain is not the first to target China. In February 2004, more than a million Taiwanese protesters formed a human chain to protest China's deployment of missiles.

On Friday, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Baltic chain, which itself was organised to mark the 50th anniversary of the Nazi-Soviet pact that carved up Eastern Europe and led to the states’ annexation by the Soviet Union.

Thousands are expected to take part in Friday’s commemorations, which include concerts, exhibitions, runs and car rallies across the region. Most events include some form of symbolic chain.

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