Hong Kong protests
November 24, 2019

There may soon be a better sense of how much progress the protest movement in Hong Kong has made.

Polls closed Sunday in Hong Kong after a district council election day that turned into the city's largest ever. Since the early hours of the morning, millions of people flocked to polling stations. The number of voters had reportedly shot past the final total of voters from the 2015 elections by lunchtime, and The South China Morning Post reports that there was 69 percent turnout, a far higher mark than four years ago.

Of course, this isn't any old election. Hong Kong has been mired in turmoil for months with the city's anti-Beijing movement growing even more tense in recent weeks. The result should serve as a barometer for support for the pro-democracy, anti-government protests, as well as for the city's Chief Executive Carrie Lam, whose leadership has been called into question by the demonstrators.

The protest groups had called upon voters to refrain from disrupting the elections and there has reportedly been no sign of trouble, providing the metropolis with a moment of calm, though police were reportedly maintaining watch over polling throughout the day. Read more at BBC and The South China Morning Post. Tim O'Donnell

November 21, 2019

The House overwhelmingly approved two measures Wednesday aimed at supporting anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, sending them to President Trump's desk. The Senate had unanimously passed both bills, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and another bill to ban the sale of non-lethal munitions to Hong Kong police forces, on Tuesday.

The White House has signaled that Trump will sign the bills, even though they come at an awkward time in ongoing U.S.-China trade talks. But the House passed the human rights bill 417-1 and the munitions ban 417-0, so even if Trump vetoed the bills, there would appear to be ample votes to override his veto.

China again warned the U.S. not to enact the measures, especially the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which threatens Hong Kong's special trade status authorizes sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong authors who carry out human rights abuses. "We urge the U.S. to grasp the situation, stop its wrongdoing before it's too late," and "immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Thursday. "If the U.S. continues to make the wrong moves, China will be taking strong countermeasures for sure." Peter Weber

November 20, 2019

The Senate unanimously passed legislation Tuesday aimed at supporting the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong as they brace for a pivotal showdown with security forces. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act would require the State Department to certify Hong Kong's sufficient autonomy from China once a year, and threatens sanctions and withdrawal of Hong Kong's special trade status if it comes up short. The House passed similar legislation in October, and once the two bills are reconciled, they would head to President Trump's desk. The Senate also passed a bill prohibiting the sale of non-lethal anti-riot supplies like tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun guns to Hong Kong's police.

"Passing this legislation is an important step forward in holding the Chinese Communist Party accountable for its erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy and its repression of fundamental freedoms," Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jim Risch (R-Idaho) said. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) added that "as the situation in Hong Kong deteriorates, China must understand that the United States of America is committed to the promised freedom and autonomy for Hong Kong."

China did not see it that way. Beijing summoned a senior U.S. diplomat on Wednesday to emphasize its opposition to the bill, warning Trump that if he signs the bill, "China will take strong opposing measures, and the U.S. has to bear all the consequences." In a separate statement, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang warned the Trump administration to "take steps to stop the act from becoming a law, and stop meddling in the internal affairs of China and Hong Kong, to avoid setting a fire that would only burn itself."

Police and a dwindling group of pro-democracy protesters have been locked in a violent standoff at Hong Kong's Polytechnic University since Sunday. Police have arrested more than 1,100 protesters and hospital authorities say they have treated more than 500 people injured in the standoff. Peter Weber

November 18, 2019

Hong Kong Polytechnic University remains sealed off with many pro-democracy, anti-government protesters trapped on campus as fears of violent clashes with police intensify.

At least some demonstrators escaped at great personal risk, as dozens of protesters lowered themselves more than 30 feet down from a bridge with plastic hosing before jumping onto the back of waiting motor bikes and speeding off while police fired projectiles, Reuters reports.

Not everyone fled the scene successfully, however. A Reuters reporter who captured footage of the escape later said that it appeared several of the protesters were arrested.

Meanwhile, two "prominent figures" were allowed onto campus by police to mediate with the demonstrators, signaling a growing risk of violence, Reuters reports. Tim O'Donnell

November 17, 2019

After a night of violence, riot police entered Hong Kong Polytechnic University early Monday morning, but were met by pro-democracy demonstrators throwing gasoline bombs, preventing them from getting too far.

The protesters have occupied the campus for several days, and on Sunday night, police surrounded the area, ordering them to go. Police have been firing tear gas at demonstrators who are trying to leave the university, and also shot water cannons. The protesters still have control over most of the campus, and the university's president, Jin-Guang Teng, recorded a video message, telling demonstrators he would go to the police station with them to ensure their cases were processed in a fair manner.

Protests started in June, with demonstrators wanting to stop a proposed bill, since withdrawn, that would have suspects arrested in Hong Kong extradited to mainland China. The protests have continued, as demonstrators want to see democratic reforms. Chinese state media has been referring to the protesters as "completely hysterical terrorists." Catherine Garcia

November 10, 2019

Hong Kong police shot at least two pro-democracy protesters on Monday morning, after the demonstrators attempted to block a busy street.

The chaos began when a traffic officer started tussling with a protester, The Washington Post reports. Another demonstrator then began to approach them, and the officer fired a live round into the person's stomach. Two more rounds were then fired at another protester. A police spokesperson said the two injured demonstrators have been taken to a hospital.

Hong Kong has been rocked by unrest for the last five months, with protesters first hitting the streets after a bill was introduced that would make it legal for suspects arrested in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China to face trial. During a protest earlier this month, a demonstrator fell from a parking structure while police tried to disperse the crowd; the protester died on Friday, which led others in the movement to call for a general strike on Monday. Catherine Garcia

October 12, 2019

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) wasn't able to make any inroads with Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam during his visit to the city Saturday, but he did get a chance to meet with a few pro-democracy protesters.

Cruz was supposed to meet with Lam, but he was informed upon landing that the meeting was canceled. Cruz said Lam's office had asked that the details of their meeting remain secret and requested Cruz not speak to the press about it. Apparently, the senator wasn't keen on those terms, and it looks like the disagreement proved to be a sticking point for both sides. Cruz described the cancelation as a "sign of weakness" and "fear of the protesters on the streets of Hong Kong."

Cruz, who is one of Congress' staunchest Beijing critics, was reportedly wearing all black when he arrived in Hong Kong in solidarity with the protest movement. He said he met with a few of the movement's leaders and urged them to shun any forms of violence, even in response to police or government brutality, while they continue their efforts.

Cruz wasn't the only U.S. official who came up during Hong Kong's 19th consecutive week of demonstrations. Protesters were reportedly determined to prove to President Trump that the rallies were still going strong after Trump said they had "toned down a lot" and that China had made "great progress" in its response to the situation. "We will still come out here swinging the American flag to let him know he is wrong," one protester told The Wall Street Journal, adding that many people are still holding out for U.S. support. Tim O'Donnell

October 6, 2019

Things have not gone according to plan for Hong Kong's government.

The city's recent ban on protesters wearing masks, implemented after Chief Executive Carrie Lam invoked a colonial-era emergency law, appears to have failed as thousands of demonstrators returned to the streets for the 18th consecutive weekend of anti-government protests Sunday. Many of them continued to cover their faces in defiance.

The rallies grew more chaotic and violent as the day went on. Protesters reportedly set fires, damaged banks and subways, and constructed road barricades, while police fired tear gas and other projectiles. A taxi driver was reportedly beaten by a mob in one district. The scene led uniform soldiers from the Hong Kong garrison of the People's Liberation Army to raise a yellow warning flag to let protesters know they were in defiance of the law and may be prosecuted.

Lam on Saturday pleaded with the public to denounce the violence and the protesters, but it appears to largely have been to no avail. Katherine Law, a 28-year-old protester, for instance, was attending her first unapproved protest on Sunday while wearing a medical mask following Lam's criticism and the emergency ordinance. "I just couldn't stand with the government anymore," she said. Read more at the South China Morning Post and The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

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