But others questioned why Hong Kongers were weighing on something that didn’t concern them, or even backed the stance expressed by some Republicans that the black protesters in the US were out-of-control rioters—as did some Chinese dissidents living in the US—never mind that it was the same epithet the Hong Kong government and Beijing apply to Hong Kong democracy protesters.

“We will…remain bipartisan”

What to do about these contradictions isn’t at all clear. Some, such as Yam, argue that the Hong Kong protest movement should choose allies who share the same political values. But that’s of course not always practical—what would that have meant, for example, if Trump had won reelection?

For Chu, the antidote is to look at politics not “as something that politicians do to us [but rather]…something that we do for ourselves,” which means being clear-eyed about political realities and calculations.” That includes being aware of how US domestic politics can trump support for rights causes abroad.

Indeed, though a vocal contingent of Hong Kong activists have rooted for Trump and the Republicans, it was Cruz who last month blocked bipartisan legislation that would have made it easier for Hong Kongers to gain refugee or temporary protected status in the US.

“We will of course remain bipartisan but whether that remains feasible depends on whether bipartisanship continues to deliver results said Jeffrey Ngo, a Washington-based Hong Kong activist who works with HKDC. “What will move bipartisanship forward is to see Biden deliver, for example by using an executive order to grant Hong Kongers temporary protected status”—something that the Hong Kong People’s Freedom and Choice Act, blocked by Cruz, would have done.

At the same time the Hong Kong movement risks limiting itself by looking at its fight against Beijing’s authoritarianism as existing in a vacuum, rather than being “intimately connected with other people in countries that are similarly suffering from government repression,” said Yam, the academic.

“There’s a need to clarify the movement, and not just define ourselves in relation to China,” she said.

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