At a press conference on Aug. 15, Hong Kong Higher Institutions International Affairs Delegation, a task force composed of student-union representatives from 11 local universities, announced that it would hold a rally at Chater Garden in the city’s financial district, beginning at 8 p.m. local time on Aug. 16.
A number of prominent figures are scheduled to attend the rally, including Margaret Ng, lawyer and former lawmaker; Hong Kong pop singer and activist Denise Ho; and Joshua Wong, the iconic figure from the 2014 Umbrella Movement and current secretary general of pro-democracy party Demosisto.
Calling the rally “Stand with Hong Kong, Power to the People,” the Delegation said it is calling for international support for their two demands. First, it is seeking that the UK government formally declare that China has violated the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. The bilateral treaty was drafted to stipulate how Hong Kong’s sovereignty would be transferred from Britain to China in 1997, whereby both sides agreed to retain the territory’s autonomy and freedoms that are not afforded in the mainland.
Hongkongers fear that the now-suspended extradition bill, which would allow any country, including mainland China, to transfer individuals to face trial, would erode the city’s judicial independence, and leave people vulnerable to China’s opaque legal system, which is notorious for the absence of rule of law. They have continually demanded for the bill’s full withdrawal. In recent weeks, some Hong Kong activists have also called on the UK government to condemn China for violating its promise to guarantee Hong Kong’s autonomy according to the Sino-British Declaration.
Second, the Delegation is calling on U.S. lawmakers to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and the UK government to draft similar legislation. The bill, which was introduced in both the House and Senate in June, proposes making Hong Kong’s special trading status contingent on the issuance of an annual certification of Hong Kong’s autonomy by the U.S. Secretary of State. Currently, the United States views Hong Kong as a separate entity from mainland China in matters of trade, visas, and investments. A similar bill was introduced back in 2017.
Mass protests in Hong Kong, which began in early June, have recently broadened to include greater demands, such as establishing an independent inquiry into local police’s use of force in dispersing demonstrators. Most recently on Aug. 11, riot police fired rubber bullets at protesters at close range, drawing rebuke from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. They also fired tear gas inside a metro station—against international protocol of using tear gas only in open space—which could have lethal effects, according to the UN commissioner.
British officials have recently raised concerns about the escalated violence. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab took to Twitter on Aug. 14, to condemn the clashes. He added that he had called Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to encourage her to have “constructive dialogue” with the protesters.
Andrew Murrison, the UK Minister of State for International Development and the Middle East, also said the government would ensure that the Sino-British Joint Declaration be observed.
Speaking at the UK Parliament on July 22, he stated, “We will continue to be unwavering in our support for the treaty and expect our co-signatory to behave in a like manner.”
Sunny Cheung, a spokesperson for the student union at the University of Hong Kong, stated that the protesters’ voices have touched the entire world, as evident by Western officials who have vocalized support in recent days. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), issued a statement on Aug. 13 saying that Congress will work to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in September.
Joey Siu, a representative for the student union at the City University of Hong Kong, said that her fellow students have been proactively reaching out to politicians and rights groups around the world, including those in the European Union and the United States as well as the United Nations, to seek their support for the ongoing protests.
The Delegation stated that its representatives will travel to both England and the United States to voice their demands.
The rally, which has received approval from the local police, is co-organized by an online message board known as “Scorched-Earth” on LIHKG, a Reddit-like platform in Hong Kong. LIHKG has become a popular platform for protesters to plan and organize future demonstrations.
The Delegation has called on organizers around the world to hold solidarity rallies, saying that 32 cities in 10 countries, including London, Washington D.C., and Taipei, have already planned such demonstrations.