Sixty-three cities on four continents from Taipei to Toronto saw rallies over the past weekend as people took to the streets and squares in a show of solidarity with protesters in Hong Kong.
In Hong Kong, the city lurched into the 17th week of demonstrations and clashes sparked by the government’s bid in June to bulldoze through the passage of a now-pulled China extradition bill.
Hong Kong’s masses continued to press their points, with goals ranging from an independent probe into police brutality to no further foot-dragging on democratic reforms and unfettered universal suffrage.
However, the city’s beleaguered leader Carrie Lam, propped up by Beijing, has brushed off all these demands, even as the city was again awash with tear gas and Molotov cocktails were hurled at police who fired rubber bullets in reply in another weekend of chaos.
Last Saturday also marked the fifth anniversary of clashes between protesters and riot police in Hong Kong’s central business district at the start of what later became known as the Umbrella Movement.
In Taiwan, an estimated 100,000 Hong Kong democracy supporters braved torrential rain from an incoming typhoon and marched in Taipei, Kaohsiung, Taichung and other urban centers.
Many said supporting Hong Kong meant supporting Taiwan, given Beijing’s intention to use the “one country, two systems” framework in place in the former British enclave on the Taiwanese, who want sovereignty of their island. The mainstream consensus was that what was occurring in Hong Kong may foreshadow what Taiwan would be put through if it was brought into Beijing’s bosom, said rally organizers.
Appeals were also made to Taiwanese authorities to enact special legislation to grant asylum status to Hong Kong protesters and dissidents who fled prosecution.
Among the crowds in Taipei supporting Hong Kong protesters were former Taiwanese Premier Yu Shyi-kun, Chairman of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party Cho Jung-tai and prominent Hong Kong activist Denise Ho.
Ho, also a Cantopop diva, had red paint poured on her reportedly by two unification supporters while she was being interviewed by Taiwanese media on Sunday. Appearing unperturbed by the paint attack, Ho said this was the type of threat facing activists back in her home city every day, “an example of how low pro-Beijing people could go” as they sought to trash peaceful assemblies.
Ho earlier testified at a meeting held by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva and also at a United States Congress hearing related to the proposed Hong Kong Democracy and Human Rights Act. Her songs and gigs have been banned in mainland China for years.
Police on the scene quickly stopped the attack and Taiwan’s Minister of the Interior said they would face charges of engaging in organized crimes and causing a nuisance in a public place. Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen also weighed in, stressing that Taiwan would not allow such behavior to challenge its democracy.
Absent from the Taiwan rallies were bigwigs from the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party who refused to join the marches, with the party’s presidential nominee Han Kuo-yu asking Taiwanese to “trust China.”
Beijing’s pull was also believed to be the cause for the sudden change of location for a pro-Hong Kong event originally planned to take part in the piazza in front of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall in the Malaysian capital city.
The organizer was forced to move the event to a remote place on Sunday due to objections from the clansmen association.
Seven cities throughout Australia also held processions with an event in Sydney attended by more than 3,000 people, according to organizers, and similar gatherings in Melbourne and Brisbane also attracted hundreds. In Perth, a plane flew a banner that read “Perth stands with Hong Kong” and buzzed the city’s waterfront amid the loud cheers from pedestrians.
In Washington, Nathan Law, the founder of Hong Kong’s leading pro-democracy party Demosistō, who won a popular vote to become one of the city’s youngest lawmakers in 2016 but was disqualified by the government in less than two weeks, led a rally of more than 100 Hongkongers, Taiwanese and others in front of the Washington Monument and called on the US to speak up for Hong Kong.
In London, close to 1,000 black-clad people gathered outside Beijing’s embassy and the nearby Regent’s Park, with some donning helmets, goggles and masks chanting “free Hong Kong, revolution now (光復香港，時代革命),” a slogan that has been graffitied throughout Hong Kong.
Previously, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK “stands four-square” behind its former colony and demanded Beijing and the city’s government heed people’s calls.
More rallies and gatherings were also held in Manchester, Berlin, Frankfurt, Brussels, Dublin, Paris, Amsterdam, Milan, Tokyo, New York, Seattle, Vancouver and other cities.