Priest begins protest outside Hong Kong prison

STORY: Milan-born missionary Franco Mella, a longtime rights activist in the Chinese-ruled city, vowed to refuse food as he stood on a dam wall overlooking the Shek Pik prison on an isolated stretch of Hong Kong's Lantau Island.

The 74-year-old, who took part in the mass pro-democracy protests in 2019 that roiled the global financial hub, told reporters Hong Kong people would be "more confident in the future" if authorities released the detained activists.

About 200 people have been arrested under the national security law since China imposed it on the former British colony in June 2020 to quell the 2019 unrest.

International critics, including some governments, have warned the law has been used to effectively silence opposition politicians, civil society and some media groups.

Chinese and Hong Kong officials have said repeatedly the law was needed to restore stability after months of sometimes-violent demonstrations.

Mella pledged not to eat for the entire period of his action, a challenge made harder by temperatures of more than 30 degrees Celsius (86F).

The Hong Kong government did not immediately respond to a Reuters' request for comment.

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