Hong Kong localism and independence

Pro-independence students gather at US consulate in bid to have Hong Kong officials punished for ‘betrayal of city’ over lack of democracy

Members of Students Independence Union and dozens of their supporters urge United States to take punitive measures against officials

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 October, 2018, 7:31am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 October, 2018, 4:00pm

Several members of a pro-independence student group and dozens of their supporters gathered outside the US consulate in Hong Kong from Sunday evening to Monday morning to urge the United States to take action against local officials who had “betrayed the city” in its democratic development.

Waving placards with slogans such as “Free Hong Kong” and “Hong Kong is not China,” the group of about 100 marchers, led by Wayne Chan Ka-kui, convenor of the Students Independence Union, made their way to the consulate in downtown Hong Kong after having taken part in a separate protest at the nearby government headquarters over land reclamation.

Chan and dozens of protesters remained until Monday morning to submit a petition to consulate spokesman Harvey Sernovitz.

En route to the consulate, officers warned the group that their protest had not been approved in advance and the participants might be prosecuted for unlawful assembly.

On reaching the US mission on Garden Road, Central, the marchers refused to use a designated protest zone set up by police, instead gathering outside the main entrance.

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Chan said they would remain there until they could submit their petition to a consulate official.

Commenting on the protest, a US consulate spokesman on Monday said it was closely observing developments in the city.

“The United States firmly supports and greatly values Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, rule of law tradition, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression,” he said.

In the petition letter, Chan urged the US Congress to quickly pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act as a means to sanction government officials who had impeded the development of democracy in the city, including leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

Several US lawmakers proposed the act in 2016 following the disappearance of five booksellers in the city the previous year. The proposal could have established punitive measures against government officials in Hong Kong or mainland China who suppressed basic freedoms in the city. However, it was not passed into law.

Chan also called on the US to freeze the assets held by Hong Kong officials in the country.

About an hour into their protest, at 8pm, dozens remained outside the consulate with police repeatedly warning them that their gathering was an unlawful assembly.

In response, Chan and the others claimed the rally had already ended and the ensuing protests were all individual actions.

Several protesters remained in front of the main entrance until Monday morning, with dozens of their supporters nearby. Police officers stood guard at a cordoned off zone in front of the entrance with others standing by in the area.

Most of the protesters left as officers started searching them and asking them for their identity cards and residential addresses. No formal arrests were made.

Last month, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu made the unprecedented decision to ban the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party on the grounds it was a threat to national security and public order. Lam has warned that she will not tolerate independence advocacy.

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On Saturday, she said there was “no room for inclusion” in Hong Kong for anyone who backed self-determination or independence, and those who did could never be lawmakers.

That came just hours after the government banned an opposition politician from running for a seat in the Legislative Council on the grounds she had once supported self-determination.

Earlier on Sunday, thousands joined a rally from Causeway Bay to the government headquarters to protest against a proposal unveiled by Lam last week to build a residential and business hub on 1,700 hectares of reclaimed land, which could house 1.1 million people, to the east of Lantau Island.

Critics of the scheme say it is too costly and environmentally damaging.