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Hong Kong protesters call US for help

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Masked protestors wave American and British flags during a protest against the governement in Mong Kong in Hong Kong SAR

The Hong Kong protesters at times seem like love fests for the United States. Depending on the day, demonstrators wave American flags or Uncle Sam recruitment posters, and even dress as Captain America, complete with shield.

A large crowd of protesters gathered in Hong Kong to call on US lawmakers to pass an act calling for the territory’s human rights to be respected.

The rally was held at a park on Hong Kong Island on Monday night. Participants pleaded with members of the US Congress to vote for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019.

The bill calls for examining whether Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status has been eroded by the mainland Chinese government. It would also enable sanctions to be imposed on individuals who undermine that status.

During the rally, people chanted slogans like “Fight for Freedom” and “Stand with Hong Kong.”

It was the first protest to receive police permission since a ban on wearing face masks at rallies took effect on October 5.

A wide range of citizens, including young and elderly people, and those with family members, are said to have participated. Organizers put the turnout at 130,000.

One of the organizers said he sees the rally as a good chance to show that Hong Kong citizens are not afraid of the ban. He added that the US bill, if passed, would provide a boost to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

A woman in her 50s said she wants the world to back the attempts in Hong Kong to gain genuine freedom and rule of law.

As they see it, the Trump administration might be able to make demands of Chinese leaders or Hong Kong officials, especially because members of elite political circles want to maintain access to the US.

Also, they note, the trade war with China, started by President Donald Trump, is adding pressure overall on President Xi Jinping.

For the US government, the protests are more complicated – they are a potential policy dilemma, but also a potential point of leverage with Beijing and a way to channel US values to the rest of the world.

If the protesters are sending out a siren call, some US officials and lawmakers are answering it, eager to show their commitment to the cause.

Members of Congress have appeared in Hong Kong in public displays of solidarity. Last month, senator Ted Cruz donned an all-black outfit, while senator Josh Hawley posted photographs from a protest.

The Chinese government and state-run news organisations talk about “black hands” behind the unrest and spread conspiracy theories, including one centred on a US diplomat in Hong Kong who was photographed with activists in the lobby of the JW Marriott Hotel.

As the protests persist, US officials are watching for surges in violence and tracking the movement of People’s Liberation Army soldiers into Hong Kong. Some are beseeching demonstrators to stick to non-violent tactics, even in the face of police crackdowns and attacks by people sympathetic to Beijing.

The Bill passed the House by unanimous vote last month. Though the Senate majority leader, Mr Mitch McConnell, has not scheduled a vote yet, the measure is expected to pass that chamber easily, with a veto-proof majority. Then Mr Trump would have to decide whether to sign it into law.

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