Brandishing a sea of American flags, tens of thousands of Hongkongers marched in Central on Sunday urging Washington to pass a bill that would punish those it deems responsible for suppressing freedoms in the city.
The mass march to the US Consulate-General on Sunday began at Chater Garden as crowds swelled around a four metre-tall statue of a protester.
Demonstrators chanted “free Hong Kong, democracy now.” Some wore black suits in accordance with a “smart casual and black facemask” dress code.
Attendees also unfurled a large blue banner reading “President Trump, please liberate Hong Kong” — a direct appeal to enact the Hong Kong Human Rights Act. The bill is a new version of a previously submitted draft law which, if passed, will impose penalties upon Hong Kong and mainland Chinese officials who infringe upon “basic freedoms” in the city, including freezing their US-based assets and being denied entry into the US.
The draft law was introduced to the House of Representatives and the Senate in June.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that Congress will begin working to pass the bill, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned that Washington could reassess Hong Kong’s special status under the US-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, which affords privileges in trade and economic matters which China lacks.
Organisers said that police issued a letter of no objection for both the meeting and the procession, which was set to expire at 5:30pm.
Eve Chen, a 50-year-old admin officer, told HKFP that she believed the bill would provide Hong Kong with a level of international protection: “China doesn’t protect us, and Hong Kong is just a small place. And the rule of law here is well-known. We cannot protect ourselves. That’s why we need international help,” she said. “I can’t see Hong Kong become like this. This is not my Hong Kong.”
Felix Cheung, a 27-year-old arborist, told HKFP that he would like to see sanctions imposed on police chief Stephen Lo and Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
“We need international help to protect our human rights and stand up against the government for violating those rights in Hong Kong,” he added.
At around 2:45pm, attendees handed the petition to a representative from the US Consulate-General for Hong Kong and Macau.
A spokesperson for the consulate confirmed receipt of the petition but declined to comment further.
Participants continued to snake along Garden Road in a loop, with flare ups between protesters and riot police stationed along the route.
Some accused officers of colluding with local gangs and calling them “black cops.”
At around 4pm, the MTR closed Central and Hong Kong stations citing a “serious incident.” At least three people were arrested as baton-wielding riot police stormed the facility, local media reported.
An officer raised a yellow warning flag twice ordering protesters not to cross police cordon lines near Central MTR station at around 4:26pm, according to Apple Daily.
Protesters proceeded to vandalise the station’s exits, blocking them with bags of rubbish, smashing windows, and creating a large fire at around 5:50pm.
Meanwhile, roadblocks were erected along Connaught Road, Queen’s Road East, and Lun Fat street as the crowd moved onto Wan Chai.
At around 6:20pm, the government released a statement saying that a large number of protesters had set fires in multiple locations across Central while damaging MTR station facilities and obstructing traffic.
“After repeated but futile warnings, in face of the situation, police officers are using appropriate force to disperse protestors,” it read.
The rail operator has been accused of colluding with the police and criticised for refusing to hand over CCTV footage of an incident in Prince Edward MTR station last Saturday. On the night in question, baton-wielding police stormed the platform and deployed pepper spray, making several arrests and leaving several injured. Netizens have since circulated an unverified rumour that there were deaths during the mass arrests.
Admiralty MTR station also saw skirmishes as dozens of officers rushed in and subdued a man.
The Police appeal to everyone on site to leave immediately and condemn all violent acts by the protestors.
Residents of the area are advised to stay tuned to the latest situation and if necessary, keep their windows shut and stay indoors.
— Hong Kong Police Force (@hkpoliceforce) September 8, 2019
At around 6:30pm, dozens of riot police with vehicles swept into Queensway to clear the area of remaining protesters. Tear gas was fired outside the Sogo Department store.
By dusk, both Central and Wan Chai MTR stations remained closed with some exits at Prince Edward, Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei, Jordan, Tsim Sha Tsui and Hong Kong station closed.
In a press release, the MTR Corporation said: “The Corporation expresses its deep anger over the acts which threatened the safety of passengers and MTR staff as well as caused injury to an MTR staff member. The Corporation reiterates that it does not tolerate any act of violence.”
Tear gas fired outside SOGO. pic.twitter.com/hHyHj1laGa
— Ryan Ho Kilpatrick 何松濤 (@rhokilpatrick) September 8, 2019
Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced on Wednesday a plan to withdraw the controversial extradition bill that sparked nearly 14 consecutive weeks of protest.
The decision responds to one of five demands put forward by protesters, though it has done little to quell public anger over the government’s handling of the crisis and animosity towards the police.
I know President Xi of China very well. He is a great leader who very much has the respect of his people. He is also a good man in a “tough business.” I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2019
Meanwhile, Trump has said that the protests are for Beijing to resolve, though – last month – also called upon Xi Jinping to deal with the matter “humanely.”
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