NBC News

By Paul Goldman and Linda Givetash

HONG KONG — Hand-in-hand, protesters formed a 28-mile human chain across 39 train stations in Hong Kong on Friday.

The demonstrators sang songs as they held small signs that said, “Thank you for supporting freedom and democracy.”

Image: Hong Kong Protest
Protesters form a human chain outside the Hong Kong Cultural Center, Aug. 23.Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP – Getty Images

The latest demonstration in the 11-week movement that stemmed from outrage over a proposed extradition bill was inspired by 1989 protests across Baltic states.

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On Aug. 23, 1989, the so-called Baltic Way involved 2 million Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians protesting Soviet domination of the region.

“I joined the Hong Kong Way because it’s peaceful,” protester Peter Cheung, 27, told Reuters, referring to the campaign’s name. “This is the 30th anniversary of the Baltic Way. I hope there will be a bigger chance to make an international noise.”

Image: Hong Kong Protest
A statue of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, with protesters behind, in Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong.Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP – Getty Images

Dozens were also shining lights from the top of Kowloon’s Lion Rock, visible from the main island of Hong Kong, in an act of defiance after warnings from Communist Party leaders in Beijing and Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam about violence.

The Hong Kong protesters’ demands have expanded from the original request in June to scrap the extradition bill, which many feared would give Beijing greater control over the territory by allowing suspects to be handed over to mainland China.

Image: Protesters hold hands to form a human chain during a rally to call for political reforms in Hong Kong's Central district
Protesters in Hong Kong’s Central district.Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters

With mounting fears that their rights are being eroded, protesters are now demanding greater democratic freedoms, the resignation of Lam, and an investigation into claims of excessive use of force by police as demonstrations have turned violent.

China’s Hong Kong affairs office has condemned the mayhem as “near-terrorist acts” — but that hasn’t slowed the momentum of protesters.

Image: Hong Kong Protest
Protesters along Victoria Harbour.Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP – Getty Images

The human chain — intended to “be a show of solidarity … and a plea for international support,” according to organizers — was the second show of force by protesters Friday. Earlier, hundreds marched in a demonstration led by accountants. Lawyers, teachers and medical workers have previously rallied in support of the protests.

Image: Hong Kong Protest
Protesters in the Mongkok district of Hong Kong.Tyrone Siu / Reuters

The former British colony became a special administrative region of China in 1997. Unlike those living on the mainland, the territory’s 7 million residents can freely surf the internet and participate in public protests.

Paul Goldman reported from Hong Kong, and Linda Givetash from London.