Mainland Chinese citizens support Hong Kong protesters

Mainland Chinese citizens support Hong Kong protesters

As Hong Kong continues to protest a now-withdrawn extradition bill to China, support rallies have been organized in other countries. Even residents of mainland China have backed the protests and the cause, with some Chinese citizens sneaking into Hong Kong to express their support.

The protests in Hong Kong began to escalate in mid-June 2019 over a proposed law that would allow Hong Kong residents to be extradited to mainland China to face trial. Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, formally withdrew the bill in early September 2019, which was one of the demonstrators’ five demands. (Pictured: Protesters display open palms with five fingers, symbolizing their five demands, as they march to the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, urging U.S. President Donald Trump to liberate their city.)

The United Kingdom handed over governance of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1997. Since that time, more than 1 million people have moved from mainland China to live, work and go to school in Hong Kong. Despite fear of reprisals from their homeland, some of these Chinese have joined the demonstrations, supporting a society that offers freedoms they do not have back home.

In more than a dozen interviews with The Wall Street Journalnewspaper, these supporters said they value Hong Kong’s autonomy from PRC control, especially when it comes to the city’s legal system and freedom of expression.

“They have joined marches, signed open online letters supporting Hong Kong, and defended the movement in social-media battles against state-backed critics and misinformation,” the Journalreported. In some cases, these supporters have worn surgical masks — not an unusual sight in many parts of Asia — to hide their faces from PRC authorities and surveillance technology.

Opposing the PRC is inherently risky. PRC authorities are checking travelers’ smartphones at the border crossing to Shenzhen for any evidence of involvement in the demonstrations. The Los Angeles Timesnewspaper reported that a 25-year-old who crossed into Hong Kong from Shenzhen to join the protests was detained by police and held for 10 days when he attempted to return to the mainland. Authorities charged him with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”

The young man was one of at least a dozen people who have been taken into custody on such charges when crossing back to the mainland.

The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, has condemned the protests and denounced the “rioting and violent behavior.” Inkstone News reported that other PRC-run media have been running a propaganda campaign to discredit the Hong Kong protesters. China’s Twitter-like but state-controlled Weibo, which is monitored by censors, also condemned the protests.

Lung Ying-tai, a Taiwanese writer and social critic, appealed to her mainland Chinese readers on Facebook to understand the ongoing protests, Inkstone News reported. While she is known in the Chinese-speaking world for her sharp criticism of political and social issues in Taiwan, she also has a large following in mainland China because many readers have found her criticisms of Taiwan also apply to their society.

“Would people from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Changsha, Kunming, Hangzhou, Xian and Shenyang refuse those values?” Lung wrote, naming some of China’s biggest cities.

Lung’s Facebook post is blocked in mainland China but can be accessed using a virtual private network. People identifying themselves as mainland Chinese have posted endorsements of her writings.

The Timesreported that PRC authorities have also detained about a half-dozen activists accused of such offenses as sharing Facebook posts, retweeting tweets, supporting protesters in a WeChat group and passing along information about the protests. PRC officials pressured mainland attorney Chen Qiushi to stop making videos of the protests and return to China.