Hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators, despite warnings from the Chinese government, filled the streets of Hong Kong on a rainy Sunday afternoon in a “peaceful” protest against what they say are Beijing’s increasingly heavy-handed tactics in the autonomous territory.
Last week, China had claimed that criminals and agitators were stirring violence, encouraged by foreign powers such as Britain and the United States, as the Hong Kong protests turned confrontational and paralyzed the international airport.
On Aug. 13, President Donald Trump said U.S. intelligence agencies had informed him about the Chinese government moving soldiers to Hong Kong’s border.
Trump has urged Xi to resolve the situation in Hong Kong “humanely.”
“People of Hong Kong, keep fighting,” the protesters chanted as they defied police orders not to march into Hong Kong’s central district because of previous clashes there, reports say.
“We hope that there will not be any chaotic situations today,” the Associated Press quoted Hong Kong protest organizer Bonnie Leung as saying. “We hope we can show the world that Hong Kong people can be totally peaceful.”
The world appears to be listening.
Supporters of the Hong Kong democracy movement gathered for rallies in the United States, Great Britain, France, Canada and Australia.
“Some wore facemasks due to fears of alleged Chinese state surveillance of citizens who support Hong Kong from abroad,” the BBC reported.
In Vancouver, Toronto and London, demonstrators were confronted by pro-Beijing rallies, the BBC report said.
Leung’s group in Hong Kong, the Civil Human Rights Front, has organized three massive marches since June. “Peace is the number one priority today,” said Kiki Ma, a 28-year-old accountant participating in the protest. “We want to show that we aren’t like the government.”
The government of Chinese supreme leader Xi Jinping has refused to accept any of the protesters’ main demands, which include a complete withdrawal of a bill that would make it easier to extradite Hong Kong citizens to mainland China, unconditional release of all arrested protesters, an independent inquiry into the alleged use of excessive police force against the demonstrators.
The protesters are also demanding the resignation of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam.
Some American lawmakers have renewed calls for the U.S. Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.
The legislation would require the White House to carry out an annual review to determine whether Hong Kong’s special trade status, which allows it to be recognized as a separate customs territory to mainland China, can still be justified.
The legislation would also require a review of Hong Kong’s enforcement of U.S. export control laws and sanctions, including whether American technology is being used to develop mass surveillance or social credit systems on the mainland.
“Hong Kong must remain sufficiently autonomous from the People’s Republic of China to justify a different treatment under a particular law of the United States, or any provision thereof, from that accorded to the People’s Republic of China,” the proposed legislation states.
Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, tweeted on Aug. 14 that the actions of the Chinese government served as a warning for “anyone thinking about any deal with them. They signed a treaty promising autonomy and democracy for Hong Kong. They will agree to anything to get a deal. But they have no intention of keeping those promises.”
A spokesperson for China’s legislature condemned statements from U.S. lawmakers supporting the protesters. You Wenze called the statements by U.S. Congress members “a gross violation of the spirit of the rule of law, a blatant double standard and a gross interference in China’s internal affairs.”