About 500 Hong Kong natives met in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday night to show solidarity with pro-democracy protesters in their home city. And, as in Hong Kong, the demonstration in Grand Park drew many young faces.
With L.A. City Hall gleaming in the background, student after student took turns with the megaphone, some speaking in Cantonese, some in English.
"Call your friends back in Hong Kong," said USC student Terrence Leung, 20. "Tell them no matter how long this takes, we have to stand firm, and we have to fight on."
Other demonstrators came in from UCLA, Occidental College, Pasadena City College and Pepperdine University.
"I felt kind of powerless sitting behind my screen," said Nicole Pun, a recent CalArts graduate whose immediately family is in Hong Kong. "Even though we're just chanting slogans, at the same time, we are united here letting Hong Kong people know we care."
The flood of students was an exciting sight for the event's organizers.
"We are very encouraged to see so many young people come out tonight," said Albert Chong, a 45-year-old accountant from L.A. "I tell everybody, I'm an old man. I need to someone to take over this role."
Chong is with Hong Kong Forum, which put on the demonstration. The local nonprofit was formed in the early 1990s by Hong Kong expatriates to promote democracy in Hong Kong and China.
The group held a rally Sunday in front of the Chinese consulate in Koreatown, but decided to organize a second event as part of a global campaign to show support for Hong Kong demonstrators on Oct. 1, a Chinese holiday marking the founding of the country's Communist government.
Alan Wan of San Gabriel showed up Wednesday because he, like the protesters in Hong Kong, is angry China wants to vet candidates for the city’s top political office of chief executive.
"Right now, they’re going picking on candidates. Next thing you know, they’re going to pick the websites we can go on," said Wan, an animation director for Nickelodeon. "They’re just doing a little bit at time."
Hong Kong demonstrators are demanding open elections and are asking that the current chief executive, C.Y. Leung, step down by Thursday night or face the storming of key government buildings.
Hong Kong residents are used to having more freedoms than other Chinese. Since the city was handed over by the British to China in 1997, Hong Kong has been operating under a special “one country, two systems” status.
China had agreed to let Hong Kongers vote for their chief executive in 2017 but set off protests last week when it said candidates had to go through a nominating committee dominated by Beijing-backed representatives.
Some Hong Kong expatriates at the rally doubted that Beijing will meet the demonstrators' calls for universal suffrage. Others remained hopeful.
"I don’t think anyone knows what's going to happen but the ball is in the government's court," said Santa Monica resident Gabriel Law, a member of the Hong Kong Forum.
Demonstrators lit up Grand Park, waving glowing cell phones as they sung the anthems of the Hong Kong protests, including the rock anthem "Under a Vast Sky" by supergroup Beyond, and "Do You Hear the People Sing" from the musical Les Misérables.
Mindful of the symbols of the Hong Kong protests, the L.A. demonstrators wore yellow ribbons on their shirts and later opened up colorful umbrellas for a group photo. The protests have been dubbed the "Umbrella Revolution" after demonstrators used umbrellas as shields against blasts of tear gas.
Many at the rally said their main concern was for the welfare of the students. Monica Dong, a 54-year-old animal rescue organizer from Walnut, was upset that police had used tear gas on protesters. With the Tiananmen Square massacre at the forefront of her mind, she worries that tensions could escalate.
"We’re hoping that with the world watching that they will minimize the bloodshed," Dong said.
But Cathy Lee, who is studying at Pasadena City College, said that if she were in Hong Kong, she'd have no hesitation heading out to the street protests with her friends.
"Of course I would. I just don't agree with what the government did," Lee said. "I just feel very sad."