An estimated 1,500 people set off on a “marathon” to petition the consulates of the G20 nations to bring up the cause of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters on Wednesday, making their first stop America’s outpost in the port city.
Holding up signs reading “Liberate Hong Kong” and “Free Hong Kong from China Colonization,” the protesters requested at each stop that the governments participating in the G20 summit this week mention China’s attempts to take over Hong Kong, which legally operates as a distinct, capitalist entity within the Chinese state.
Chinese officials have stated they will “not allow” discussion of Hong Kong at the summit, though they have no power to stop other world leaders from speaking out about Beijing’s attempts to oppress the city.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement attracted two million people this month – out of seven million residents – demanding an end to a bill that would have allowed the government to extradite anyone to China if Beijing accused them of violating Chinese law. The bill did not discriminate among Chinese citizens, Hong Kong residents, or foreigners, and did not make exceptions for Chinese crimes that violate international human rights law. Citizens rightfully worried that the bill would force Hong Kong police to extradite them for “crimes” such as criticizing the Chinese Communist Party or worshiping in a faith not authorized by the Party.
The “One Country, Two Systems” policy technically does not allow officials to impose Chinese law on Hong Kong residents, which protesters allege the extradition law clearly breaches.
In response to the protests, Hong Kong administrators tabled the extradition bill. The march attracting two million people occurred after they announced their decision.
Protesters are demanding the full removal of the bill from the legislature, as tabling it allows lawmakers to revive the bill at any time. They have also asked the government to apologize for its description of the protests as riots, free imprisoned protesters, and begin an independent probe into police violence against protesters. The protesters have organized multiple rallies in the heart of the city, but only one of them – the Wednesday, June 12 protest – attracted police violence.
Amnesty International has accused Hong Kong police of “unnecessary and excessive use of force” that day, including the use of tear gas, pepper spray, baton beatings, and firearms against peaceful protesters.
The protesters made their first stop Wednesday at the U.S. consulate, where they handed a letter explaining their demands and the tense situation with China to an American government representative. Since America has been vocally supportive of their cause, they requested that American officials help convince other governments to support them, rather than urging the United States to support them directly.
“President [Donald] Trump has publicly announced that he has [an] intention to bring up Hong Kong’s situation at the G20 summit, we are truly grateful for his attention,” the protesters who handed the letter over said, according to the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP). “We humbly ask that you can further extend our plea to other heads of state and particularly [Chinese] President Xi during the G20 talks, and stand behind Hong Kong’s autonomy”:
The first stop is the US consulate. A speaker, wearing a mask said: "We can no longer trust, a social system and political leaders… we are leaderless and our momentum is driven by the will of the people."
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) June 26, 2019
The group of 1,500 then split up into three groups to hit up another 16 diplomatic outposts. Notably, the group will not petition the Chinese government to reconsider their position. In addition to consulates, the group will petition the headquarters of the European Union (E.U.). Among the stops the South China Morning Post listed were also the consulates of Canada, Germany, Japan, Australia, Russia, and Indonesia. Russia is a close ally of the Chinese government and the least likely to address the Hong Kong situation at the conference.
In contrast, the United Kingdom (U.K.), which administered the government of Hong Kong for decades, will likely join America in expressing solidarity with the protesters. The U.K. has suspended sales of tear gas and rubber bullets to Hong Kong out of concern they will be used against protesters. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt issued a statement decrying the “violent scenes” on June 12 and supported the protesters’ demands for an independent investigation into the police brutality documented that day.
Despite support from the West, protesters said they feel they need more global support to pressure China.
“We had to bring it to the international level because the Hong Kong government has been ignoring our demands,” Ventus Lau Wing-hong, a protest organizer, told the Morning Post.
The protesters have also organized a media blitz in anticipation of the summit, using crowdfunding measures to generate thousands of dollars for advertisements against China in major international publications. The Morning Post reports that, according to protest leaders, they had amassed $858,000 in just 11 hours on Tuesday to buy advertising in the New York Times, Financial Times, “and at least ten other newspapers in Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America.”
Protesters also announced that they would organize allies in Osaka, Japan, where the G20 summit will take place, to put pressure on the Chinese Communist Party to back down on attempts to control Hong Kong.
“We want to do whatever we can before the G20,” protester Baggio Leung told the HKFP on Wednesday.