HONG KONG : Protesters in Hong Kong have flooded the streets and the grounds of government offices in rallies over the past three weeks against an unpopular bill that has thrown the territory into a political crisis. On Wednesday, they directed their appeals to a new audience: the world.
Hundreds of protesters, dressed in black and white T-shirts, demonstrated at foreign governments’ consulates in Hong Kong to demand that world leaders address their concerns at the annual summit of the Group of 20 later this week in Osaka, Japan. And thousands turned out for a peaceful demonstration outside City Hall Wednesday night chanting “Free Hong Kong! Democracy now!”
Later in the night, the demonstration took a rowdier turn as thousands of young protesters walked to the headquarters of the city’s police force and surrounded it, blocking nearby roads. A few piled metal barricades against a closed metal gate outside the driveway of the complex as officers watched from inside.
Hong Kong has been roiled in recent weeks by what have been some of the city’s largest-ever demonstrations, which have already forced Carrie Lam, the embattled chief executive, to suspend the bill. The measure would allow the extradition of Hong Kong’s residents and visitors to mainland China’s opaque judicial system.
But demonstrators still want the legislation to be formally withdrawn and they want to send a broader message that they will resist the erosion of the civil liberties that set the city apart from the rest of China.
The demonstrators hope to draw to Hong Kong the attention of the leaders of industrialized and emerging nations and the European Union, who will soon arrive in Osaka for the Group of 20 meeting. They say that world events have given them extra leverage in forcing Lam and Beijing’s leaders to agree to suspend the law.
“Without the trade war chaos and the G-20 summit, would Carrie Lam have announced the suspension?” said Joshua Wong, a prominent youth activist.
The demonstrations represent the biggest resistance to Beijing’s rule on Chinese soil since Britain handed back the territory in 1997, said Willy Lam, a political scientist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
“This is a direct slap in the face of Xi Jinping,” said Willy Lam, “and so some Western countries, particularly the U.S., may want to use this as an excuse to further put pressure on Xi Jinping.”
But China says it is having none of it. Zhang Jun, an assistant foreign minister, told reporters this week that Beijing opposed discussing Hong Kong at the G-20. “Under no circumstance would we allow any country or individual to intervene in Chinese internal politics,” he said.
Jeremy Hunt, the British foreign secretary, said on Tuesday that the government would not issue licenses for crowd control equipment to Hong Kong “unless we are satisfied that concerns raised on human rights and fundamental freedoms have been thoroughly addressed.” He called for an independent investigation of police violence, echoing one of the demands of the protesters.