Rally called on Monday ahead of US vote on HK Democracy Act

October 14, 2019 14:52
Protesters march (inset) in HK in early September to call for the US Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. US Senator Ted Cruz arrived in Hong Kong on Saturday, but found a meeting with the city’s leader getting cancelled. Reuters

An activist group is preparing to hold a rally on Monday evening in a bid to send a message to US lawmakers that they should pass legislation that would help the Hong Kong democracy fight.

The organizer said on Sunday that it has received a letter of no objection for the gathering that would take place ahead of a US Congress vote on the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

US lawmakers will be urged to pass a bill that would require Washington to evaluate the state of autonomy in Hong Kong every year so as to justify the city’s special trade status and other preferential treatments. The move is aimed at putting pressure on Beijing to uphold its promise to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy.

The police have given the go-ahead for the rally, albeit with some conditions that aim to ensure that the assembly would be peaceful, according to the organizer.

It marks the first such protest event approved by the police since the government’s new mask ban took effect on Oct. 5, the Hong Kong Economic Journal noted.

The event will be held at 7 pm at Chater Garden in Central, with the organizer saying it expects a turnout of about 2,000. 

The organizing group, which counts activist Ventus Lau Wing-hong among its key members, claimed that the rally will be held in a “peaceful, rational and graceful” manner.

The group revealed over the weekend that the police had specifically requested that no one joining the rally should cover their faces.

Also, there should be at least 30 event marshals tasked with ensuring public order during the rally.

The organizer said it would remind participants of the ban on face covering and the risks of flouting the rule.

However, it said it hopes the police would exercise restraint and not rush into confrontation if they see some people in the rally wearing masks.

The gathering has been planned as the US House of Representatives is expected to vote this week, possibly as soon as Tuesday, on the proposed Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019.

Ahead of the vote, US Republican Senator Ted Cruz arrived in Hong Kong on Saturday as part of a regional tour, after a visit to Taiwan.

After arriving in the city, the senator from Texas learnt that Hong Kong's top leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, had canceled a meeting with him that had been scheduled for Saturday afternoon, after he reportedly declined her request to keep the discussion confidential.

Apart from the meeting with Lam, Cruz had also made arrangements to sit with other individuals including two pro-democracy lawmakers, Dennis Kwok Wing-hang and Charles Mok Nai-kwong, as well as former Hong Kong chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, during his trip to the city.

In a statement issued on Sunday in response to media inquiries, a spokesman for the Chief Executive’s Office said Lam “originally planned to meet” Cruz on Saturday “at his request but the meeting was cancelled due to the Chief Executive's other duty commitment.”

The spokesman said that while freedom of speech of foreign politicians is respected, "comments should be based on facts."

“Everyone can see from media reports that violent protesters conducted violent and vandalistic acts on many occasions in Hong Kong in recent months. Masked rioters vandalised public facilities and shops, committed arson, hurled petrol bombs as well as wantonly attacked police and people with different views in various districts, seriously undermining public order."

“It is indeed baffling for Mr Cruz to say that he had not seen protesters' violent acts,” the spokesman said.

“In the face of continuous escalation of violence, it is necessary for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government and Police to tackle the situation resolutely in accordance with the law. Before expressing their views, foreign politicians should put thought into the actions they would have taken if the same situation happened in their own country, instead of criticising Hong Kong irresponsibly or even expressing support or endorsement in any form for violent acts,” the spokesman continued.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Commissioner of China's foreign affairs ministry in Hong Kong also lashed out at the US senator, accusing him of telling blatant lies and staging a show to voice  support and cheer up Hong Kong's "violent extremist" protesters.

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