Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong have taken up a new tactic in their on-going efforts to win greater autonomy from mainland China – appealing to the U.S.
On Sunday, The Wall Street Journal detailed some of the latest protest tactics seen in Hong Kong, which appear to increasingly request the attention of the U.S. and calling on them to pass measures to impede Chinese efforts against Hong Kong protesters and human rights activists.
Protesters called on U.S. lawmakers to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which seeks to penalize Hong Kong and Chinese government officials who participate in human rights abuses and extraditions, described in the bill as “abductions.” The bill would also scrutinize Hong Kong’s status as a separate trading partner from China, threatening the business status of the city and potentially interrupting Chinese economic interests through Hong Kong.
For visa applicants coming from Hong Kong, the bill also suggests that where applicants are otherwise qualified, the U.S. will not limit those applicants arrested by the Chinese government during peaceful protests.
Many of the tens of thousands of protesters could be seen waving the American flag and were heard playing the U.S. national anthem as they marched toward the U.S. consulate.
Protesters in Hong Kong are asking for Trump and America’s help to liberate their city as they wave their American flags.pic.twitter.com/i1WhsAIoAL
— UPNEX (@UPNEXmedia) September 9, 2019
The weekend protests follow a recent concession made by Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, in which she vowed to fully withdraw a criminal extradition that has been at the heart of the protest actions for months.
The bill, if passed, would permit the Chinese government to extradite Hong Kong citizens and even foreign visitors of the city to be extradited to see trial in mainland Chinese courts dominated by members of the country’s Communist Party.
Since the bill was introduced, protesters have demanded its withdrawal. Following protests and police response, demands have grown to include an investigation of police actions and release of arrested protesters. The general list of demands has also expanded to include Lam’s resignation and greater democratic reforms such as voting rights to the people of Hong Kong.
In Lam’s statement last Wednesday, she indicated the withdrawal of the extradition bill. Her gesture to remove the controversial bill was followed by her insistence that police responses to the protests, deemed to be riots, were appropriate. She said that to drop the charges against protesters would run “contrary to the rule of law.”
Protests have continued since the Wednesday statement.
In a comment given to the Wall Street Journal, one protester Joe Lau, 36 years old, said Lam needed to promote Hong Kong autonomy and universal voting rights in the city.
Lau, who wore a Trump 2020 hat and waved the American flag during the rally expressed doubt that Lam would ever meet the demands of the protesters, “but I think the U.S. government has the ability to force the Hong Kong government to do that.”
The calls on U.S. support could add a new dynamic to ongoing trade negotiations between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, which have seen tariffs and retaliatory tariffs launched between China and the U.S.
Trump has not offered any statement on the particular Sunday protests, but has previously warned Jinping to avoid brutal police tactics and instead meet with the protesters.