Hong Kong’s protesters have a new target in sight: The G20 summit

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Image: AP/Kin Cheung
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Ahead of the G20 summit, which kicks off on Friday (June 28) in Osaka, Japan, Hong Kong’s protesters are clamoring to have their voices heard by some of the world’s most powerful leaders.

The effort comes after massive demonstrations against a hated extradition bill, which would allow Hong Kong to extradite suspects to mainland China, swept the city earlier this month. Though the government has suspended the legislation indefinitely in response to public anger, protesters want it completely withdrawn. Citizens see the controversial bill as yet another attempt by Beijing to squeeze Hong Kong of its freedoms and to bring it ever closer into its orbit, and the G20 summit, they believe, will be the perfect opportunity for world leaders to press Chinese president Xi Jinping on the issue.

Many foreign governments in recent weeks have expressed concerns over the extradition bill, noting that it threatens the rule of law in Hong Kong and warning of its far-reaching consequences for both Hong Kong citizens and foreigners in the city. The UK yesterday (June 25) halted all future sales of tear gas to Hong Kong’s police force until allegations of brutality against protesters are investigated by an independent probe. But so far there has been little direct pressure from foreign leaders on Xi over Hong Kong.

Today (June 26), over a thousand protesters wound through the city as they made their way silently to 19 foreign consulates, including those of the US, UK, EU, and Germany. At each consulate, they delivered a petition letter explaining the recent protests, as well as what they said was the broader erosion of freedom and democracy in Hong Kong. On the way to the US consulate, some protesters held signs that read “President Trump. Please liberate Hong Kong.”

Lawrence Wong, a dual American and Hong Kong citizen who works as an artist and filmmaker in Berlin, read out the petition letter outside the US consulate, calling on Trump to “stand behind Hong Kong’s autonomy.”

“Hong Kong is at the frontline of the fight between liberal democracy and the so-called Chinese model,” he said afterwards. “That’s why it’s important” to get the message out to world leaders.

Another protester said that it was imperative for Hong Kong’s voice to be heard throughout the world. ”If we don’t tell the foreign media what’s going on in Hong Kong, it’s like being beaten up behind closed doors,” said Amanda Wu, who flew in from Sydney specifically for today’s protests and an annual demonstration on July 1, which marks the day when Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule 22 years ago. 

A crowdfunding campaign was also launched yesterday morning with a target of HK$3 million ($384,300) to place advertisements in major international newspapers. An ad expected to be placed in the Financial Times tomorrow (June 27) warns readers of a “white terror” that has descended upon Hong Kong, and describes the “violent crackdown” by police on protesters as a “mini-Tiananmen,” according to the crowdfunding campaign’s webpage. Donations quickly blew past the target within hours of the campaign’s launch, hitting almost HK$5.5 million ($704,500) by the afternoon. The organizer of the fundraising drive did not respond to a request for comment.  

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Crystal Tong, a 25-year-old student, was one of the more than 20,000 people who donated to the campaign. Placing advertisements in international newspapers trumps making headlines, she said. ”It’s the difference between being active and passive. Now, it’s not about international media interviewing us. It’s about us having a message for the international media. And I think that’s more powerful.”

The protesters’ push to get Hong Kong on the G20 agenda comes two days after China announced that it “will not allow” any discussion of the city during the summit because “Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs.” How that ban would be enforced is unclear, as US secretary of state Mike Pompeo had earlier said that president Donald Trump would discuss Hong Kong with Xi during their meeting. Hong Kong’s financial secretary is also attending the summit.