HONG KONG—Thousands of Hong Kong protesters on Sunday chanted the Star Spangled Banner and called on U.S. President Donald Trump to “liberate” the city, the latest in a series of demonstrations that have gripped the territory since June.
Police stood by as protesters, under a sea of umbrellas against the sub-tropical sun, waved the Stars and Stripes and placards appealing for support from the United States after another night of violence in the 14th week of unrest.
“Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” they shouted before handing over petitions at the U.S. Consulate. “Resist Beijing, liberate Hong Kong.”
Last month Trump suggested China should “humanely” settle the problem in Hong Kong before a trade deal is reached with Washington. On Aug. 1, Trump called the protests “riots” that were a matter for China and the Hong Kong people to deal with.
“Somebody said that at some point they’re going to want to stop that. But that’s between Hong Kong and that’s between China, because Hong Kong is a part of China. They’ll have to deal with that themselves. They don’t need advice,” he said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Saturday urged China to exercise restraint in Hong Kong, a former British colony which was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” agreement.
Esper made his call in Paris as police in Hong Kong prevented protesters from blocking access to the airport but fired tear gas for a second night running in the densely populated district of Mong Kok.
“With the U.S. locked in a trade war with China at this point in time, it’s a good opportunity for us to show (the United States) how the pro-China groups are also violating human rights in Hong Kong and allowing police brutality,” said Cherry, 26, who works in the financial industry, as protesters marched toward the nearby U.S. Consulate.
“We want the U.S. administration to help protect human rights in Hong Kong.”
The “one country, two systems” formula was signed as a guarantee to Hongkongers’ freedoms, many of which are not enjoyed by those living in the mainland. But many Hong Kong residents have long feared that Beijing is eroding that autonomy.
The Fight Continues
China denies the accusation of meddling and says Hong Kong is an internal affair. It has denounced the protests, accusing the United States and Britain of fomenting unrest, and warned of the damage to the economy.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced concessions this week aimed at ending the protests, including formally scrapping a hugely unpopular extradition bill, which ignited the unrest in June. But many protesters said it was too little, too late.
The bill would have allowed the extradition of people to mainland China to stand trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party, which are notorious for being abused to silence critics and punish dissidents. Hong Kong has an independent judiciary dating back to British rule.
But the demonstrations have long since broadened into calls for universal suffrage to limit the influence of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, with many protesters pledging to fight on.
U.S. legislation addressing potential actions by the Chinese regime in Hong Kong is likely to discussed in the U.S. Senate when Congress returns to work after a recess next week. A bipartisan bill is proposing to require an annual justification of the special treatment afforded by Washington to Hong Kong, including special trade and business privileges, under the U.S. Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.
The legislation, called the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, would also mandate that officials in China and Hong Kong who have undermined the city’s autonomy are vulnerable to sanctions.
Protesters, in their petition, urged that it be passed in full.
Trump often praises Chinese leader Xi Jinping as a great leader and friend while at the same time excoriating structural problems in the communist state’s economy that have been taking advantage of U.S. businesses through intellectual property theft and other unfair trade practises.
Beijing announced that top officials would head to Washington in early October to hold talks aimed at coming to a binding agreement in the tit-for-tat trade war, now in its second year, which has roiled markets and hammered global growth.
By Sumeet Chatterjee and Joe Brock