Watch: Hong Kong Protesters Hold ‘Thanksgiving’ Rally after Trump Signs Support Bills

Pro-democracy protesters take part in a Thanksgiving Day rally at Edinburgh Place on November 28, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Protesters gathered to say thank you to the United States after US President Donald Trump signed legislation supporting the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters, with new legislation requiring annual reviews of …
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Thousands of demonstrators in Hong Kong staged a “Thanksgiving” rally on Thursday evening in response to President Donald Trump signing two bills in support of the city’s pro-democracy movement.

Demonstrators took to the streets shortly after the president signed the legislation. Some draped themselves in U.S. flags and expressed gratitude for the administration’s support.

“The rationale for us having this rally is to show our gratitude and thank the U.S Congress and also President Trump for passing the bill,” student Sunny Cheung, 23, told Reuters. “We are really grateful about that and we really appreciate the effort made by Americans who support Hong Kong, who stand with Hong Kong, who do not choose to side with Beijing.”

“I was confident Donald Trump would sign the law because we are fighting for universal freedom. Everyone globally should support that,” another young woman told the news outlet. “But we do want to give thanks to those around the globe that support us, a small city like Hong Kong, we thank them for their attention.”

President Trump signed the bills with near-unanimous backing from House and Senate lawmakers and said he did so out of respect for Chinese Communist Party Chairman Xi Jinping and the people of Hong Kong

“They are being enacted in the hope that Leaders and Representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long term peace and prosperity for all,” he said in a statement.

China’s foreign ministry reacted furiously to the move, calling the laws a “naked hegemonic action” and summoned its U.S. ambassador.

“The U.S. side ignored facts, turned black to white, and blatantly gave encouragement to violent criminals who smashed and burned, harmed innocent city residents, trampled on the rule of law and endangered social order,” said the ministry.

The two countries are currently locked in a trade war and have deep differences over China’s claims to the South China Sea and Taiwan, human rights issues, and accusations of Chinese industrial espionage.

The first bill President Trump signed mandates sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who carry out human rights abuses and requires an annual review of the favorable trade status that Washington grants Hong Kong.

Another bill prohibits export to Hong Kong police of certain nonlethal munitions, including tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, water cannons, stun guns, and tasers.

The munitions bill was passed unanimously, while Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) was the sole House member to oppose the human rights bill.

President Trump acknowledged last week that he was weighing the ramifications of signing the bill.

“Look, we have to stand with Hong Kong,” Trump said in an interview on Fox & Friends. He continued, saying, “But I’m also standing with President Xi. He’s a friend of mine. He’s an incredible guy.”

Democratic and Republican lawmakers applauded the signing of the bills. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said it “finally sends a clear and unequivocal message to the people of Hong Kong: We are with you.”

Sen. Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the bills are “an important step forward in holding the Chinese Communist Party accountable for its erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy and its repression of fundamental human rights.”

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) who sponsored the House human rights bill, said Xi “should understand that the U.S. is not kidding about human rights. Beating, torturing and jailing of democracy activists is wrong and this historic legislation lets China know that respecting fundamental human rights is paramount.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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