Hundreds of Thousands of Hong Kong Protesters Urge Tourists to Support Anti-China Cause

The Associated Press
AP Photo/Kin Cheung

Hong Kong’s anti-Communist protesters took to a new neighborhood Sunday to urge the complete cancellation of a bill that would allow China to extradite anyone accused of violating its laws: Kowloon, a district whose shopping center attracts Chinese visitors, who the protesters hope to convince to support them.

The organizers of Sunday’s march to the rail terminal in West Kowloon told media that as many as 230,000 people rallied to northern Hong Kong, seeking to engage citizens of the Chinese Communist mainland on their plight. Kowloon is the northern part of the city, separated from Hong Kong island and the Admiralty district where protesters destroyed the Legislative Council (LegCo) headquarters last week.

The shift in location reflects a shift in strategy to hopefully attract support within China for the Communist Party to stop threatening to violate “one country, two systems,” the policy that allows Hong Kong to remain both capitalist and a part of sovereign China.

“We want to show the peaceful side of our protest to mainland tourists, and hope that they will bring the truth of the situation back to the mainland,” Ventus Lau, a protest organizer, told the Hong Kong Free Press. He noted that the number of protesters who showed up this weekend was larger than the organizers expected, even after last week’s violence against protesters.

During last week’s incidents, young protesters stormed the LegCo building, shattering its glass exterior and vandalizing the legislative floor. They took care not to damage historical artifacts or steal, instead only destroying what is necessary to pass the law. They caused extensive property destruction that may set the legislature back weeks and cost over $1 million to repair. Police have arrested over a dozen in relation to the incident. During the attack, police used tear gas and beat protesters with batons, though no significant incidents of protesters attacking police have surfaced.

The Chinese Communist Party has stationed a robust military presence in the city, intimidating locals last week by staging military exercises and holding events to allow civilians to see the extensive weaponry stationed in Hong Kong.

The protests Sunday, above all, were intended to show Chinese citizens that the Hong Kong protest movement was peaceful and making reasonable demands. Currently, they are demanding the full removal of the extradition bill as a top issue, but have continued to urge the government to stop referring to protesters as “rioters” and bring police officers who brutalized protesters to justice. Chief executive Carrie Lam tabled the extradition bill – which would allow China to imprison anyone, regardless of their nationality, and bring them into China if they violate Chinese, but not Hong Kong, law – which allows lawmakers to immediately revive it at will. Lam has tried to depict the tabling as a major concession.

On Sunday, the marchers – who targeted the popular Tsim Sha Tsui district – chanted “There are no rioters but only tyranny!” while walking to the train station, according to the South China Morning Post.

At least one anonymous Chinese man told the Post that he received the message.

“Hongkongers are extraordinary. I have never seen big marches like these on the mainland. I am so impressed by the unity of purpose of Hongkongers,” the man, identified as being from Shanghai, reportedly said.

Another, speaking to the Hong Kong Free Press, noted that he had no idea what the protesters were demanding, although he was aware that protests were happening in Hong Kong.

Chinese state media regularly refer to protesters as “rioters” and insist that they seek only to impose chaos on the city. The Global Times, a Communist Party newspaper, claimed the United States had organized the protests to gain leverage in the ongoing trade dispute.

Police once again responded with violence on Sunday night. They beat protesters with batons, hurled obscenities at them, and many failed to appear in uniform and did not show a badge. Journalists alleged that the police prevented them from carrying out coverage of the event. Joshua Wong, the head of the pro-democracy Demosisto party, posted shocking images of officers appearing to beat journalists with batons and threatening to fight individual protesters. Some protesters took the lack of police number and visible warrants for their behavior, violations of police protocol, as a tactic to make it more difficult for them to identify abusive officers, making it easier for officers to attack with impunity.

Police authorities did not explain this lack of adherence to protocol. In a statement, they claimed the protesters threatened violence against them.

Despite repeated warnings issued by the police urging protesters to leave, some protesters refused to comply and even acted violently,” the police statement read. “Police noticed the heavy crowd flow in the area, coupled with lots of narrow lanes, increasing the safety risk at scene. As such, police decided to take dispersal action.”

In remarks on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang expressed optimism that Hong Kong would remain wealthy through the protests and continue to strengthen the Chinese economy generally.

“Hong Kong remains a city of prosperity and stability. Its aggregate economy has doubled since 22 years ago. For over 20 consecutive years, it has been rated as one of the freest economies,” Geng said. “Its business environment and competitiveness are worldly acknowledged. It is now faced with precious opportunities to gain new growth drivers through further integration into national development. The international community also holds a more positive attitude towards cooperation with Hong Kong. We have every confidence in its future.”

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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