Hong Kong activists call for global support after US laws

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Police block off an overhead bridge to open up the Cross-Harbor tunnel access near the Polytechnic University campus in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019. The major tunnel in Hong Kong reopened on Wednesday as a weeklong police siege of the university appeared to be winding down, closing one of the more violent chapters in the city's anti-government protests. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

HONG KONG – Chanting “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” pro-democracy activists on Thursday urged the world to follow U.S. footsteps in supporting human rights in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, as police teams began a cleanup of a university earlier occupied by demonstrators.

Waving U.S. flags, thousands crowded a public square in central Hong Kong for a night “Thanksgiving” rally to thank the United States for passing two Hong Kong laws and vowed to “march on” with their fight, now entering its sixth month.

Prominent activist Joshua Wong, who was among those who lobbied for the new U.S. laws, said it was remarkable that human rights had triumphed over crucial U.S.-China trade talks. Wong told the rally the next aim is to expand global support by getting Britain and other Western nations to follow suit.

One of the U.S. laws, which were signed by President Donald Trump on Wednesday, requires an annual review of the special trade status for Asia’s top financial hub and prescribes sanctions on Hong Kong and mainland Chinese officials found guilty of human rights abuses. The other bans the export of certain nonlethal munitions to Hong Kong police.

A student representative warned the crowd that the U.S. laws, which came days after a victory by pro-democracy candidates in local elections, was “not an end-game” because protesters’ demands, including full democracy and an independent inquiry into police actions, have not been met.

Rally organizer Ventus Lau urged the U.S. to swiftly implement the laws and penalize police and government officials who suppressed democracy. Some singled out the city’s embattled leader, Carrie Lam, for her handling of the crisis.

Earlier, dozens of office workers and activists chanted “This is what democracy looks like” and other slogans during a daily lunchtime rally downtown. A protester held a placard saying “Thank You Mr. Trump, Sanction #1 Carrie Lam.”

More than 5,000 people have been detained since the unrest began in June over a China extradition bill seen as an erosion of freedoms promised when the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997. The movement has since expanded its demands.