Hong Kong protesters hold vigil ahead of Sunday march

HONG KONG — A vigil was held Saturday night for a Hong Kong woman who fell to her death this week, one of three apparent suicides linked to ongoing protests over fears that freedoms are being eroded in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

A mostly youthful gathering placed lit candles and incense at temporary memorials in a square in central Hong Kong.

Before falling from a shopping mall on June 30, the 29-year-old woman left a message on Facebook that wished for the protesters’ success but said she could not carry on, Hong Kong media have reported.

A 21-year old student had fallen to her death the previous day, as did a man after hanging a protest banner about two weeks earlier. The three deaths have raised concerns about the possibility of copycat suicides among other disaffected people.

The protesters say Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, has not shown empathy for the victims.

Matthew Cheung, the chief secretary for administration, said Friday that the government feels deeply sorry and saddened by the suicides and will do all it can to stop the trend.

“We realize that many people are feeling unhappy at this present moment,” he said. “That’s why we have to work together. Life is very important. Nothing’s more important than life.”

The protests were sparked by a government proposal to allow the extradition of suspects to mainland China to face trial. Lam has suspended the legislation indefinitely, but protesters are calling for the formal withdrawal of the bill and Lam’s resignation.

They are planning to march Sunday to a high-speed train station that opened last year, connecting Hong Kong to Guangzhou, Beijing and other destinations in mainland China. Passengers pass through Chinese immigration in the station, which became a legal controversy in Hong Kong because mainland law applies in about one-fourth of the station.

Some opposition lawmakers argued the move would violate the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution under which it retained its own legal system and civil liberties after reverting from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Another protest Saturday targeted mainland Chinese women who sing loudly and dance somewhat provocatively in a public park, and sometimes receive tips from the mostly older men who watch them.

In one encounter, a protester threw water at one of the performers, who squirted him with soda.

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