Some grassroots organizations in San Francisco are urging US legislators to stop interfering in the internal affairs of Hong Kong following Tuesday’s passage of controversial bills in the US House of Representatives.
The San Francisco chapter of Veterans for Peace, Chinese Americans for Peace and Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association organized a protest on Wednesday in front of the federal building in San Francisco. The representatives submitted a petition to the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California congresswoman, urging the lawmakers to reject the bills.
One of the bills passed by the House on Tuesday, the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act”, would require an annual review of the city’s political developments to justify its special trading status under US law.
Another related bill would prohibit the export of certain nonlethal crowd-control items such as tear gas to Hong Kong. A separate House resolution called on the Hong Kong government to begin negotiations to address the demonstrators’ demands.
The bills now move to the Senate, and if passed there and signed by US President Donald Trump, they become law.
“The bills would punish Hong Kong for being freer and more democratic than America, and the Hong Kong police for being far more restrained than American police,” said Mike Wong, vice-president of Veterans for Peace San Francisco, who led the petition. “It’s an exercise in hypocrisy and should be stopped immediately.”
Wong said the US interferes in many countries, stirring up trouble. “This is a long-standing pattern of the US, going back far into American history,” he said.
He said the passage of the bills reminds him of what the US did in Nicaragua, where it tried to stir up a rebellion by accusing the police of being violent when the police were physically not present. “They also used that as a fake excuse to escalate their violence – exactly the same thing happening in Hong Kong,” he said.
John Walsh, a retired professor of physiology and neuroscience at University of Massachusetts Medical School, who lives in the Bay Area, signed the petition and participated in the protest against the bills.
The “human rights” bill is perhaps the most blatant example of interference in the internal affairs of Hong Kong, said Walsh. “By threat of sanctions, confiscation of assets on US soil and other economic and political measures directed against Hong Kong officials and other Chinese officials, the bill seeks to determine which laws the Chinese city will legislate and which not,” he said.
It also seeks to guarantee visas to the US for those who break Hong Kong laws in the course of protests. “This is of course an encouragement to such protests,” said Walsh.
An initially peaceful demonstration, triggered in June over a since-abandoned proposal to amend the city’s extradition laws, has developed into riots in the past months.
Wong said his group has been hearing from friends and families in Hong Kong that they are afraid of the violent protesters and no longer go out of their homes unless absolutely necessary.
“The protesters have been attacking police with steel bars, sticks, baseball bats, knives, sharpened umbrella points and throwing bricks, rocks and Molotov cocktails at police, yet so far the police have not killed anyone,” he said.
Walsh said he has been watching the news from Hong Kong closely since June. He said it’s “incredible” for what the demonstrators did and how they got away with it.
He participated in the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in 2011. “If we had done anything like that, we would be in jail for a long time, and several of us would be shot or maybe killed,” he said. “How would the US react if China threatened similar actions with respect to demonstrators, New York officials and federal officials?”
Citing a survey by the Council on Foreign Relations that found 68 percent of Americans want friendly relations with China, Walsh said the attitude reflected in the “hostile” bills on Hong Kong is not coming from average citizens but from Washington.