Thousands of students formed human chains outside schools across Hong Kong on Monday to show solidarity in the push for democratic reforms after violent weekend clashes in the semiautonomous Chinese territory, AP/Los Angeles Times reported.
The silent protest came as the Hong Kong government condemned the “illegal behavior of radical protesters” and warned the U.S. to stay out of its affairs.
Thousands of demonstrators held a peaceful march Sunday to the U.S. Consulate to seek Washington’s support, but violence erupted later in the day in a business and retail district as protesters vandalized subway stations, set fires and blocked traffic, prompting police to fire tear gas.
Hong Kong’s government agreed last week to withdraw an extradition bill that sparked a summer of protests, but demonstrators want other demands to be met, including direct elections of city leaders and an independent inquiry into police actions.
Protesters in their Sunday march appealed to President Donald Trump to “stand with Hong Kong” and ensure Congress passes a bill that proposes economic sanctions and penalties on Hong Kong and China officials who are found to be suppressing democracy and human rights in the city.
Hong Kong’s government expressed regret over the U.S. bill, known as the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. It said in a statement Monday that “foreign legislatures should not interfere in any form in the internal affairs” of Hong Kong.
The government said it was “very much in Hong Kong’s own interest to maintain our autonomy to safeguard our interests and advantages under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle” after the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week that Hong Kong residents deserve real autonomy and freedom from fear. She urged an end to police violence against protesters and said Congress looks forward to “swiftly advancing” the Hong Kong bill.
The unrest has become the biggest challenge to Beijing’s rule since it took over Hong Kong, and an embarrassment to its ruling Communist party ahead of October 1 celebrations of its 70th year in power. Beijing and the entirely state-controlled media have portrayed the protests as an effort by criminals to split the territory from China, backed by what it said were hostile foreigners.
Trump has suggested it’s a matter for China to handle, though he also has said that no violence should be used. Political analysts suggest that his response was muted because he doesn’t want to disrupt talks with China over their tariff war.