HONG KONG – Protesters in Hong Kong wrote hundreds of Christmas cards on Thursday for people jailed in the city's pro-democracy movement, promising they won't be forgotten as they face spending the festive season behind bars.
“Please know that u are not alone,” said one of the cards, a sentiment expressed by many. “We will NEVER forget u.”
Police have made more than 6,000 arrests during the six months of protests. The cards are destined for those who have been denied bail. Organizers said they will be delivered via defendants' lawyers and lawmakers. Protesters said they believe dozens of people arrested during the movement could remain in jail during the holidays.
“We love you! We wait you! We support you!" said another of the cards.
Organizers said they handed out some 2,000 cards at a rally attended by hundreds of people Thursday night marking the half-year mark for the protest movement that has convulsed the semi-autonomous city.
The protesters gathered amid the skyscrapers of central Hong Kong's business district, some of them lit up in festive Christmas-season lighting. Those who filled out cards did so quietly, lost in their thoughts, and addressed detainees as “brothers and sisters in arms."
"We are inseparable and we are like one body,” said one of the organizers. Like many protesters who are fearful of repercussions from their activism, she gave just a first name, Emma.
“Most people are writing: ‘We care about you and we would like to wait for you,’" she said.
Another organizer, Vivica, said: “It's Christmas. Everybody is happy outside and we are enjoying freedom (but) freedom is not for granted. The price is being paid by someone else who is now in prison.”
Many of the demonstrators came from work to join the evening “United We Stand” protest. They chanted “Hong Kong people, revenge!" in anger at police use of tear gas and widespread arrests during the mass demonstrations that erupted in June.
Office worker Judy Leung said she protests every week, in part because attending rallies sustains her morale for a long battle.
“Maybe our bodies are tired but our hearts are not,” she said. “We give power to each other so we can carry on.”
As she spoke, another protester, a stranger, came up with a packet of cookies and asked if she wanted one.
“This is how society should be,” Leung said. “We share our love.”
The rally came before Hong Kong's leader, Carrie Lam, travels to Beijing this weekend to report to Communist Party leaders.
Protesters said they don't expect that trip will produce any concessions to their demands. They're pushing for full elections, a probe of police actions and amnesty for those who have been arrested.
“She just listens to what her Beijing bosses tell her to do,” protester Fergie Chan, a shipping industry worker, said of Lam. “I have a feeling that we might be in a very long fight. That's why we're still out after six months.”