Thousands of protesters gathered in Central on Thanksgiving to express their gratitude to the US for passing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act – legislation that Washington can use to punish the city’s officials.
Thursday evening’s rally, which organisers say 100,000 attended, took place at Edinburgh Place.
It came after US President Donald Trump signed the act into law in the morning, despite Beijing’s repeated opposition.
Police said 9,600 people attended at the rally’s peak.
Sunny Cheung, a member of the Hong Kong Higher Institutions International Affairs Delegation (HKIAD) which organised the event, said they prepared a 100-page report for the US to consider sanctions.
He said the act was passed faster because US senators saw the police operations at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the siege of the Polytechnic University.
“These events made [Senate majority leader] Mitch McConnell and US President Donald Trump unable to stand with the enemies of Hong Kong people,” Cheung said.
“We must thank our front line protesters for fighting with their blood – otherwise we would not have this act today,” he added.
Student leaders, activists and scholars spoke at the rally about the influence that the bill will bring to the protests in Hong Kong, which have been ongoing for more than five months.
Initially against the now-withdrawn extradition bill, the movement has morphed into a much bigger protest movement calling for democracy and an investigation into the police use of force.
Trump also signed the PROTECT Hong Kong Act, which bans the sale of US crowd control weapons to Hong Kong.
Demosisto Secretary-General Joshua Wong said he thanked overseas Hong Kong people for their effort to lobby the US Congress, as well as frontline protesters.
Singer-activist @hoccgoomusic led thousands of Hongkongers in signing the protest anthem "Glory to Hong Kong," after she helped successfully lobby the US to pass legislation supporting the movement. #HongKongProtests #hongkong #antiELAB pic.twitter.com/zYEE6xCEKa
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) November 28, 2019
He also thanked Hong Kong voters for the pro-democracy camp’s major win at the District Council election last Sunday.
Wong said it was the last straw forcing Trump to sign the act.
“When we do interviews by international media in the future, we can proudly say: we are the majority!” he said.
The act will impose penalties upon Hong Kong and mainland Chinese officials who infringe upon “basic freedoms” in the city, including freezing their US-based assets, denying the use of the US banking system, and being denied entry into the US.
Singer and activist Denise Ho led the crowd in singing the popular protest anthem Glory to Hong Kong.
Participants asked each other to stand up for the “national anthem” and switch on their phone lights.
Posted by Stand News 立場新聞 on Thursday, 28 November 2019
Kex Leung, a member of the HKIAD, said the group will ask for further help from the international community, including setting up an international commission of inquiry investigating the police, passing more laws to punish those harmed human rights and democracy in Hong Kong, among other measures.
“Dear America and dear world, please continue to stand with us, and fight alongside us,” he said. “Join us, join the right side.”
“I feel touched and excited – we thank [the] USA for this,” a protester named Jo told HKFP. “There will still be protests,” he added.
“There is little we can do as local people, so we count on international support… The government is not doing anything to stop the police,” a protester named Kay told HKFP. “We do keep our faith and hope justice and equality will come.”
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