2019-09-09 11:16:011 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
The Hong Kong protesters are now reaching past their own government and are asking American politicians for help. They waved United States flags, sang the "Star-Spangled Banner," and carried signs begging for help from Donald Trump.
The protesters would like American lawmakers to pass legislation that would support their desire for more democracy. They pleaded in signs, "President Trump, Please Liberate Hong Kong" and "Free Hong Kong, Pass the Act!"
This wasn't completely a peaceful march, however, despite it being police-sanctioned through the city center.
Violence broke out when protesters vandalized a subway station that had been closed by the police and set a fire around an entrance. Station windows were smashed by demonstrators, and they also threw street signs, emptied trash cans in the stairwells of the subway, and built barricades.
Police fired tear gas later on Sunday to get the protesters to disperse from a shopping district.
While Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced that the extradition bill that began the protest months ago would be withdrawn, the protesters have not backed down.
The protest organizers handed a consulate official a petition asking for a quick congressional passage of the bipartisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. This is expected to upset Beijing, as they have accused the U.S. of meddling in their politics and said the Hong Kong protest is an internal Chinese matter.
In June, just days after a million people marched, requesting the extradition legislation be dropped, it was reintroduced. On Sunday the Hong Kong government admitted to "regret" over this and "reiterate[d] that foreign legislatures should not interfere in any form in the internal affairs" of the city.
The bill they are asking to be passed by U.S. lawmakers called for an annual review of the special treatment Washington allows Hong Kong under the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, which includes trade and business privileges allowed in Hong Kong but not China.
It also calls for the administration to freeze assets and deny entry to the U.S. for people who are found to be "suppressing basic freedoms" in Hong Kong.
"The Chinese government is breaking their promises to give freedom and human rights to Hong Kong," said a young protester wearing a red MAGA hat.
"We want to use the U.S. to push China to do what they promised over 20 years ago," he added. "The U.S. government can make China think, 'Do they really want to lose Hong Kong?' "
While Lam suspended the extradition bill in June, she didn't fully withdraw it until last week. During that time the protests became more intense, and the focus expanded to include Beijing tossing to the side the "one country, two systems" law Hong Kong has been under since China took the city back from Britain in 1997.
Showing the growing anti-China feelings of the protests, Sunday's protesters carried posters and stickers that showed the Chinese flag with the yellow stars depicting swastikas. The Central district was spray-painted with swastikas as well and also the word "Chinazi."
Lam withdrawing the bill "was a public relations exercise vis-a-vis Beijing and Washington," according to Andreas Fulda, a senior fellow at the University at Nottingham's Asia Research Institute and also the author of a book on efforts of democracy in China. He added that Lam "has every reason to be worried about a strong U.S. response" when Congress is in session again.
"We are in a very urgent situation," expressed Cody, an IT worker. "We need all the support we can get."
Last week House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said they should move quickly to advance the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he would support legislation to "enhance" the Hong Kong Policy Act he helped pass more than 25 years ago.
"Traditionally, these bills targeting specific countries, they are developing countries, with dictators in those countries," said Felix Chung, a pro-Beijing lawmaker who traveled to Montana with colleagues last month to meet with lawmakers.
"But Hong Kong has been so close to the U.S., economically and socially, it has never been a target of the U.S. government, so why should they use such a particular bill to punish Hong Kong?"
Trump has largely stayed out of the demonstrations in Hong Kong, though did say last month Chinese President Xi Jinping could "quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem."
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