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Hong Kong high schoolers rally as more protests planned

Students and others gather during a demonstration at Edinburgh Place in Hong Kong, on Aug. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

HONG KONG (AP) -- High school students thronged a square in downtown Hong Kong Thursday to rally for political reforms as residents gird for further anti-government protests.

Also Thursday, police charged two people in connection with a shocking attack against protesters by assailants with organized crime ties in July while major banks called for an end to the political crisis and threw their support behind the city's Beijing-backed government.

Hundreds of teenagers, wearing black and holding umbrellas in the oppressive heat, turned out for the rally, one of many demonstrations organized by different groups over the coming weeks.

They chanted "Liberate Hong Kong" and "Revolution of our times" and called for Hong Kong's Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, to step down, before breaking into groups to discuss the city's political future.

Hong Kong has been gripped for more than two months by at times violent protests led by young people demanding the withdrawal of an unpopular extradition bill and full democracy. The bill, which would have seen suspects extradited to mainland China where the judiciary is not independent, was eventually shelved.

On Friday, the movement's supporters plan to form human chains across the semi-autonomous Chinese city, inspired by a similar event 30 years ago in the Baltic states when hundreds of thousands of Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians joined together to mourn the loss of independence to Soviet rule.

Two people have been charged with rioting in connection with the July 21 attack, Chief Superintendent Tse Chun-chung said at a daily press briefing. Masked assailants suspected of ties to organized crime swung bamboo poles and steel rods in the rampage, injuring 45 people, which came as a shocking escalation of the city's summer of protest.

Protesters complain about the lack of police progress in investigating the attack, which left both protesters and bystanders injured. They've accused police of colluding with the attackers by delaying their response, which police deny.

The charges are the first to be filed against the 28 people arrested after the attack.

Tse said police are awaiting legal advice from the Department of Justice on charges for the other 26 arrested.

Major banks in Hong Kong took out advertisements in some newspapers calling for an end to the political crisis, signaling the financial industry's support for Lam.

HSBC called for dialogue to resolve differences, in a full page ad in the pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po.

"We are very concerned about recent social events and strongly condemn any violence and behavior undermining social order," the bank said, adding it "fully supports a peaceful approach to finding solutions."

Standard Chartered said it opposes violence and "firmly supports" the Hong Kong government in effectively maintain social order.

Bank of East Asia took out a smaller ad with a similar message.

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