HK protesters reach targeted American audience, if not America’s masses

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Chants and songs at Monday’s rally called to the US for their aid – namely through passing the HK Human Rights and Democracy Act.

Photo: A view of protesters Monday night from the high ground in Central.

Credit: Donovan North

Last night, an estimated 130,000 people gathered at Chater Garden in support of the US HK Human Rights and Democracy Act. Protesters chanted US-targeted slogans like, “Pass the Act”. They carried scores of US flags and sang the American anthem, The Star Spangled Banner.

Not for everyone

“The US public does not broadly notice,” comments Ross Feingold (Head of Business Development at SafePro Group Ltd), “and it remains to be seen how this legislation, recent destructive acts by protesters in Hong Kong, or a US-China trade agreement will impact public opinion in the US one way or the other.” But if the American public en masse isn’t engaged with the specific debate about the pending Human Rights and Democracy Act, it doesn’t mean key players don’t notice.

Mr Feingold adds that particular groups, such as China watchers and university students, are constituencies that have kept a keen eye on the events unfolding. Footage of protesters outside the US Consulate in Hong Kong parading with US flags, wearing “Make America Great Again” hats, and performing other patriotic American acts have generated positive coverage in American media, but screen-time has decreased as breaking news takes precedence.

Targeting key players

Earlier on Monday, US Senator Josh Hawley (Missouri – R)  was in Hong Kong, and lent his support to pro-democracy protesters in a video published on Twitter. US Senator Ted Cruz, who also showed solidarity with protesters, was also in the city for a meeting with Chief Executive Carrie Lam. The meeting was later cancelled due to a disagreement on the confidentiality of their discussion. Other influential Americans who have spoken in support of the protests include former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Conservative activist Matt Schlapp

According to Charles Lam (spokesperson of Hong Kong Forum, Los Angeles), these protests have moved some protesters and worried others. For the latter group, “[they] were alarmed that such actions might create the optics that the US is interfering in the internal affairs of another country, making them shy of taking real legislative actions.”

Considering the controversial nature of the Trump administration, Mr Lam adds, “the waving of American flags can be (mis-)interpreted as an approval of President Trump’s actions, which could also complicate the matter.”

Visits to the US Congress by protest leaders such as Joshua Wong also attract positive media coverage, Feingold says. Such events have also “accelerated the schedule by which the US Congress responds legislatively.” With the pace at which the news moves, it does not look like the pleas of Hong Kong protesters are on the radar of the average American. But those in the American government and China-focused circles are well tuned-in to their appeals.

Even if the Act is passed today, that is just a third of the process. After that, it must move through the Senate, and then the President has to sign and enact the law. The next two steps will take quite some time as the government will be focused on impeachment hearings, and then primary season.

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