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Hong Kong students lead democracy fight with class boycott

HONG KONG — Thousands of Hong Kong university students abandoned classes Monday to rally against Chinese government limits on voting rights, a bellwether demonstration of the city’s appetite for turning smoldering discontent into street-level opposition.

“University students must shoulder the responsibility of these times,” Nathan Law Kwun-chung, the acting president of the student union of Lingnan University, told the crowd crammed into the main quad at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Some held banners of their schools, many others umbrellas to ward off the sun in this tropical former British colony.

“Boycotting classes is just the first wave of resistance,” he said. “Today is not the last step for us all. It’s the first step, and countless resistance campaigns will bear fruit.”

The student strikers, who have said they will boycott classes for the week, are at the vanguard of a planned succession of protests against rules proposed by China that would effectively give Beijing the right to screen candidates for Hong Kong’s top official.

High school students plan to join the boycott for a day on Friday. While the strike’s first day indicated a modest start, the biggest showdown will come if the main pro-democracy group, Occupy Central with Love and Peace, acts on vows to flood Central, the city’s main business district, with demonstrators.

—Chris Buckley and Alan Wong, The New York Times

German Amazon workers walk off jo

BERLIN — Amazon employees in Germany, frustrated by the company’s refusal to hold wage talks, walked off their jobs Monday in a coordinated strike at four of the company’s distribution centers.

A total of 2,000 workers refused to show up for their shifts on Monday in an effort to force the company to accept an agreement in line with other retailers.

The job action was expected to run from the early shift Monday through the late shift on Tuesday, said the Ver.di retail and service workers union, which organized the strike.

Amazon said the number of employees taking part in the strike during the first shift was not significant enough to prevent the company from making its deliveries on time.

‘’Less than 600 employees of the early shift have followed the call to strike action,’’ Anette Nachbar, a spokeswoman for Amazon in Germany, said in an email. ‘’Therefore the strike will not impede on the compliance with Amazon’s delivery promise.

The company employs some 9,000 full-time workers in Germany, with thousands more on temporary contracts.

At the heart of the issue is an attempt by Ver.di to force Amazon to recognize itself as a retailer, which would make it beholden to labor laws that require wages be set through collective bargaining.

But Amazon insists that its warehouses are logistics centers, ‘’not shops frequented by customers.’’ Instead, most of its workers are involved in taking goods from shelves, packing and shipping them, and for their services, they receive wages at the upper end of the pay range for logistics workers, Amazon says.

Ver.di has been fighting Amazon since spring 2013, holding successive walkouts at different times, but Monday’s was the first coordinated action to be held simultaneously by workers at the four facilities — at Bad Hersfeld, Leipzig, Graben and Rheinberg.

—Melissa Eddy, The New York Times