Hong Kong protests
September 8, 2019

Hong Kong's protesters want the United States to step in and help them out.

Anti-government, pro-democracy protests continued in Hong Kong on Sunday, as thousands of demonstrators marched on the U.S. consulate in the city in an attempt to garner support from Washington.

The protesters reportedly waved American flags and sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" as they called on President Trump to "liberate" Hong Kong.

More specifically, The South China Morning Post reports, the rallygoers want Washington officials to back the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which would require the U.S. government to assess Hong Kong's level of political autonomy to determine whether it should continue to have a special trade status under the U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992. The bill, if passed, could reportedly put more pressure on Beijing, because losing the special status would affect investment in mainland China.

The U.S. has remained mostly mum on Hong Kong as Washington and Beijing try to hammer out some sort of resolution to their trade war. But Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Saturday urged China to exercise restraint and Trump has suggested in the past he thinks the situation should be settled "humanely." Read more at Reuters and The South China Morning Post. Tim O'Donnell

September 4, 2019

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Wednesday that she is withdrawing an extradition bill that sparked months of protests, meeting a key demand of the pro-democracy demonstrators. Lam suspended the controversial legislation — which would allow transferring people from Hong Kong's independent judiciary to mainland China's Communist Party–controlled courts — in June and later said it was "dead," but protesters insisted that the bill be formally killed off.

Initial reaction to the move among the protest movement was skepticism, with many calling it too little, too late. An online forum popular with the protesters was filled with calls to keep up the pressure until all their demands are met. Other demands include an independent inquiry into police violence against protesters, amnesty for jailed protesters and protest leaders, and a return to direct election of Hong Kong lawmakers and leaders. Peter Weber

September 3, 2019

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Tuesday she has never actually considered resigning over the protests that have roiled the city over the summer, clarifying leaked comments she made last week to business leaders. In a 24-minute recording of her speech, obtained by Reuters and released Monday, Lam said that "for a chief executive to have caused this huge havoc to Hong Kong is unforgivable. It’s just unforgivable. If I have a choice, the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology, is to step down."

Lam did not dispute the authenticity of the leaked recording, saying only that it's "totally unacceptable" someone secretly recorded her private comments. But she did tell reporters Tuesday that quitting was "an easy path" she won't take. "I have never tendered a resignation to the central people's government. I have not even contemplated to discuss a resignation," Lam said, adding that "the choice of not resigning was my own choice," not Beijing's.

In her leaked comments, Lam also said Beijing isn't preparing to send in the army to quell Hong Kong's persistent protests, but her own ability to defuse the protests is constrained by the central government now viewing the situation as a national sovereignty and security issue, especially amid the trade war with the U.S. In such a situation, she said, "the political room for the chief executive who, unfortunately, has to serve two masters by constitution — that is, the central people's government and the people of Hong Kong — that political room for maneuvering is very, very, very limited." Read the entire transcript at Reuters. Peter Weber

September 2, 2019

Hong Kong students boycotted classes in a pro-democracy protest on Monday, the first day of the new school year, The Guardian reports. High school students gathered outside their schools, kneeling, holding hands, and chanting, "Free Hong Kong! Democracy Now!"

Organizers estimated 9,000 or more students from more than 200 schools were participating. Pro-democracy demonstrators also followed up a tense weekend of protests by disrupting transportation during rush hour, blocking train doors from closing in the city's mass transit railway stations.

Several editorials in Chinese state media condemned the protests against Hong Kong's Beijing-backed government. An editorial on the state-run Xinhua news agency's site said "the end is coming for those attempting to disrupt Hong Kong." Harold Maass

August 30, 2019

A number of Hong Kong protest leaders were arrested Friday morning, according to pro-democracy group Demosistō, including its 22-year-old leader, Joshua Wong. Wong was seized at about 7:30 Friday morning at a subway stop then "suddenly pushed into a private car on the street" and taken to Hong Kong police headquarters, Demosistō said. Another prominent Demosistō activist, Agnes Chow, was arrested at her house. A third protest leader, Andy Chan, was arrested as he tried to board a plane at Hong Kong International Airport, on charges of rioting and assaulting a police officer. Chan is founder of the banned pro-independence Hong Kong National Party.

The arrests, part of a widening crackdown on protests that have roiled Hong Kong for two months, precede a major protest march on Saturday to mark the five-year anniversary of Beijing ruling out universal suffrage, sparking the 2014 Umbrella Movement; authorities have refused to issue a permit for Saturday's march. Wong and Chow have both been arrested since the umbrella protests, which they helped lead — Wong was released from jail most recently in June — and the current protest moment is deliberately leaderless, relying on social media to organize protests.

As the protests persist and have started to develop a violent edge, authorities in Hong Kong have stepped up arrests and use of force and Beijing had issued threats and displayed military force. So far, more than 800 people have been arrested in connection with the protests, some of them facing up to 10 years in jail on riot charges. Wong and Chow are supposed to travel to Washington in September to meet with lawmakers and testify in support of the bipartisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. Peter Weber

August 28, 2019

While many citizens of mainland China living in Hong Kong don't support the city's anti-government, pro-democracy protests, there is indeed a small cohort who have joined the demonstrations, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The decision to do so is far from without risks. Chinese authorities, for example, check travelers' smartphones as they cross the border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, looking for evidence of participation at the rallies. But it's not only the government that is trying to ensure mainlanders don't get involved.

One 22-year-old woman, Betty Xu, remained in Hong Kong following her graduation from a local university this summer and has joined several of the protests, even posting pictures of them on the Chinese messaging service, WeChat. She says she has been accused by her childhood friends from back home of being brainwashed by Hong Kong and has deleted about 100 of them from her contacts whom she felt she could no longer trust.

Another woman, who only provided the Journal with her surname, Chen, said the main reason she joined one of the protests is because she was agitated by Chinese media relaying inaccurate information to the mainland, such as the claims that the extradition bill that sparked the months-long demonstrations was widely supported in Hong Kong. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

August 25, 2019

Police in Hong Kong arrested 36 people, including a 12-year-old, on Sunday, following a violent protest.

They were detained for a variety of reasons, police said, including unlawful assembly, possession of an offensive weapon, and assault against a police officer. Demonstrators have been filling the streets for more than two months, calling for democratic elections and investigations into use of force by police. Tens of thousands of people marched peacefully earlier in the day, but at the end of the rally, some protesters broke away from the crowd at Tsuen Wan Park and started setting up traffic barriers in the road.

Police responded, putting up warning flags and then using tear gas to get the protesters to leave. In response, demonstrators threw bricks and gasoline bombs toward the officers, The Associated Press reports. After the remaining protesters, holding sticks and rods, started chasing officers down the street, police pulled their guns on the group, with one firing a warning shot. "The escalation you're seeing now is just a product of our government's indifference toward the people of Hong Kong," demonstrator Rory Wong told AP. Catherine Garcia

August 20, 2019

After 11 weeks of protests, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday said the government wants to hold "open and direct" conversations with demonstrators.

"Work will start immediately to build a platform of dialogue," she said. "We hope this dialogue can be built upon a basis of mutual understanding and respect to find a way out for Hong Kong." Lam also said political leaders will start investigating complaints against police, one of the demands made by protesters. "I sincerely hope this is the start of society returning to calm and turning away from violence," she said.

The protests started with the introduction of a bill that would let people arrested in Hong Kong be extradited to China. The measure has been shelved for now, but protesters want the bill to be totally withdrawn. The demonstrators have shut down Hong Kong's airport and clogged the streets near the financial district. On Sunday, a peaceful rally drew approximately 1.7 million protesters, and it was a very different scene from the earlier protests, when riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas; this time, there was a light police presence. Catherine Garcia

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