Hundreds of people gathered at Chater Garden on Sunday afternoon to thank US President Donald Trump for signing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act that could lead to diplomatic and economic sanctions on the city.
The rally, “Thank You US”, organised by a localist group called Hong Kong Autonomy Action (HKAA), saw people waving American flags and marching to the US Consulate in Central.
“We thank the US for signing the act. It will continue to put pressure on the Hong Kong government. Thank you for not forsaking us,” a member of the HKAA, who gave his name as Tony, said at the rally.
The rally also carried strong messages against the Communist Party of China.
Last week, Trump signed into law the legislation that could impose diplomatic action and economic sanctions against Hong Kong, much to the anger of China which said it constituted meddling in the country’s internal affairs as it warned that it would result in consequences.
The law will, among other things, allow Washington to suspend Hong Kong’s special trading status based on an annual certification by the US State Department, which will gauge whether the city retains a sufficient degree of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” framework.
It will also give the US discretion to sanction people deemed responsible for acts that undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy from mainland China, and not block visas to individuals deemed to have been subjected to political persecution.
While analysts have warned that the legislation could hurt Hong Kong’s standing as a financial and business hub, participants at the rally shrugged off such concerns.
A construction worker, who only gave his name as R, attended the event with his girlfriend, bringing along an American flag. He acknowledged the act might adversely affect Hong Kong’s relationship with mainland China, especially in areas such as commerce.
“But if we don’t keep a public discourse going and gain international support, those in power will not change their mind,” he said.
A protester surnamed Chuen said she hoped the act would put economic pressure on the Hong Kong government.
“The act might harm our economy in the short term, but ultimately it will damage China more – which is what we want,” she said.
Gordon, a Canadian expat who has lived in Hong Kong for 30 years, attended the rally to support Hongkongers in their fight for democracy.
But he said: “The act ultimately doesn’t mean a thing because Trump isn’t a reliable person.”
“The US fundamentally won’t do anything to support Hong Kong – it’s up to the people here to fight for human rights for the next generation, because nobody else is going to help them.”
A financial consultant surnamed Kwok said the passing of the act might have an effect on the economy, but it would also send “an important message to world leaders that we’re fighting for the right cause”.
“I don’t think the effect of this will be as major as the trade war between the US and China,” he said.
“It’s very hard to say right now who will suffer the most since the act has just been passed and no action has yet been taken, so we need to observe.”
However, Kwok said he would be worried if Hong Kong lost its status as a free-trade zone because of the act. “But in general, if the leaders understand what’s going on in Hong Kong, they should act on this.”