Hong Kong Residents to Form 20-mile Human Chain to Protest Authoritarian Rule, Mimicking Baltic Way Against Soviet Union 30 Years Ago

Protesters in Hong Kong are looking to pay homage to a symbolic act of resistance from three decades ago that helped bring down the Soviet Union.

With protests now in their 11th week, users of a prominent online forum in the Chinese territory have called for the staging of a local version of the human chain that took place across the Baltic states on August 23, 1989.

On that day, people across the republics of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, which were then still part of the USSR, linked hands in a protest known as the "Baltic Way" in a demand for independence.

The action coincided with the 60th anniversary of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, the 1939 agreement between the Soviets and the Germans to divide Europe into spheres of influence, leading to the Baltic states being subsumed into the USSR.

Hong Kong
Anti-government protesters gather on the street in front of the Legislative Council Building in Hong Kong, China. Pro-democracy protesters have continued rallies on the streets for several weeks. Chris McGrath/Getty Images

A user on the forum LIHKG has called for a similar action and for people to gather at 7.15 p.m. on Friday along sections of three major metro lines in Hong Kong: the Island, Kwun Tong, and Tsuen Wan lines, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.

A 20-mile human chain would spread across Hong Kong Island and the New Territories, where people would chant slogans in a protest ending at 9 p.m.

The user "Spring Worm," who started the thread, said, according to the website: "The Baltic states showed the world they were united. Hong Kong residents are united now as well. All of our five demands must be fulfilled, especially our main demand: universal suffrage.

"We urge the central and Hong Kong governments to listen to the strong public opinion of Hong Kong people fighting for democracy and freedom, and implement universal suffrage immediately."

An estimated 1.7 million protesters staged a peaceful rally in torrential rain on Sunday days after tensions were spiked following protests at the city's airport and subsequent violent clashes with police.

Estonia, Baltic Way march
People in Tallinn, Estonia, hold hands on 27 August 1989 when it was part of the USSR in a rally called the Human Chain that stretched across the Baltic states in a protest for freedom. A similar rally is planned for Hong Kong on August 23 to call for the territory’s freedom from China. ANDREY SOLOVYOV/Getty Images

Last week, Chinese state media outlets posted videos showing armored Chinese troop carriers purportedly driving into Shenzhen, the south-eastern city that borders Hong Kong. However, experts have played down the prospect that Beijing may intervene militarily.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong's chief executive Carrie Lam said she hoped dialog with the demonstrators could help end the crisis, which was sparked by opposition to an extradition bill in Hong Kong that critics feared would bring the territory further under China's control.

The bill has now been suspended, but the protests have evolved into a broader pro-democracy movement.

"We will immediately start the work to establish a platform for dialogue. This dialogue, I hope, will be based on mutual understanding and respect and find a way out for today's Hong Kong," she said, according to CNBC.

Protesters are demanding the full withdrawal of the extradition bill, the protests to not to be characterized as "riots," the release of arrested protesters and an independent commission of inquiry to be set up to investigate the events since June.