An estimated 400 people joined a rally on Monday to accuse police of disregarding the role of Hong Kong's social workers, and arresting at least 14 of them who have mediated in clashes with anti-government protesters over the past three months.
The event in Edinburgh Place in Central, which organisers said was attended by 380 social work students and social workers at its peak, came two weeks after social worker Jackie Chen Hung-sau, who claimed she had been trying to defuse tensions at a protest, was arrested and charged with rioting, an offence punishable by 10 years in prison.
"Police officers have been using unreasonable charges to arrest frontline social workers, such as Chen, in the protests," said Kelvin Chan, a 25-year-old social work student from Hong Kong College of Technology.
"They do not understand the roles of not only social workers, but also that of journalists and lawmakers."
On Sunday night, Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung, who was seen telling officers not to use excessive force on protesters in North Point, was taken to a police station.
Lun Chi-wai, president of the Hong Kong Social Workers' General Union, also said it was increasingly difficult for them to do their jobs on the front line.
Lun said social workers, himself included, had been trying to get the names and emergency contacts of protesters arrested at the scene, so they could arrange lawyers and notify family members.
"Police officers have been pushing us away and accusing us of obstructing them," he said. "But how obstructive could we be when we are just asking arrestees for their details?"
The social unrest, triggered by the extradition bill in June, has morphed into an unprecedented movement against the police and the government.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has given in to one of the protesters' five demands by withdrawing her controversial piece of legislation. Protesters, unsatisfied, have urged her to address their remaining demands, which include an independent investigation into the police's use of force, and implementation of universal suffrage.
At around the same time, around 150 of some 4,000 students joined a class boycott at Shue Yan University (HKSYU) in North Point on Monday afternoon, as part of the continuing protests against the bill.
The turnout was half of what Kristine Lai Ching-ting, 20, acting president of HKSYU's student union, expected.
"I'm a bit disappointed, but the atmosphere and the student's protest message against the government is worthwhile," she said. "I hope other students who didn't join the rally can use their time and energy to take part in other protests."
She said university student unions are planning a week-long strike, which involves class boycotts and general strikes, beginning on September 30.
Some of those present said the government fulfilling the five demands would be "too little, too late" because of what they said was an abuse of power by police and the government.
"I cannot accept an independent police inquiry because I don't trust the government any more. The police force needs to be disbanded and rebuilt," said a year two student surnamed Wong, 21, who studies Chinese.
But Dorcas Lau, a 21-year-old student who chose not to attend the rally, said protesters should just take what they could get - the withdrawal of the bill - as some of the other demands, such as universal suffrage, could not be implemented in the short-term.
In a growing sign of the ongoing protests being brought into the city's schools, the movement's rallying cry "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times" was spray-painted at the school's basketball court, and on a wall at Ying Wa College, in Cheung Sha Wan.
The graffiti was found on Sunday, but was quickly covered with white paint, and the basketball court locked down, when students returned to school on Monday.
The school's anti-extradition bill concern group denied responsibility, and said they did not know who did it.
A Form Five student and a member of the group said: "We should encourage discussion and expression of views on the most important issue in Hong Kong of our times. Sweeping it under the carpet and whitewashing the issue just don't cut it."
The Post has reached out to Ying Wa College for comment.
Separately, around 30 protesters also took part in a sit-in at the Revenue Tower in Wan Chai on Monday lunchtime as they sang Glory to Hong Kong, the de facto anthem of the movement.
A 23-year-old film master's student, who gave his name only as Kan, urged the government to respond to their demands.
He said the fact it took Lam so long to withdraw the bill showed the city's political system completely ignored the will of the people.
That is why genuine universal suffrage is so important, Kan added.
Additional reporting by Linda Lew
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