Wed, Sep 11, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Come together, right now

Hongkongers, Uighurs and Tibetans unite with Taiwanese as they face a common ‘protagonist’ of repression

By Chris Fuchs  /  Contributing reporter in New York

This year’s UN For Taiwan/Keep Taiwan Free rally in New York City on Saturday emphasized unity among groups targeted by the Chinese Communist Party.

Photo: Chris Fuchs

Last week, Tony Sze (施承兆) was in the thick of it. Rubber bullets. Tear gas. Water cannons. Police everywhere.

Living in New York, the 24-year-old from Hong Kong decided to return to his birthplace, if just briefly, to join his friends in protesting over a now-withdrawn extradition bill. Those demonstrations have grown into a broader demand for democracy in the former British colony.

“It means a lot to the people when they realize that we have support from all over the world,” Sze said.

That support stretches to overseas Taiwanese and Taiwanese Americans, who this past weekend staged their annual UN For Taiwan/Keep Taiwan Free rally in New York City.

Held for more than two decades, the event has evolved from a call for Taiwan’s participation in the UN to an intergenerational march incorporating an array of groups targeted by China’s government.

Sze, along with Sandra and Ann Shum, were among some of the first-time attendees with roots in Hong Kong who said standing in solidarity was important.

“The protagonist in this is the Chinese Communist Party,” Sandra Shum said. “All of us — the Uighurs, the Tibetans, Hong Kong, Taiwan — [are] linked to that because they’re suppressing their democracy.”

HONG KONG

Hong Kong has garnered the lion’s share of international attention lately, as images and videos showing protests that regularly devolve into scenes of violence dominate headlines.

Pro-democracy protesters who’ve been hitting the streets for months with their list of five demands, which included withdrawal of the extradition bill, accuse the Hong Kong police of using excessive force. Police officials have dismissed that claim.

Hong Kong riot police have deployed rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray to disperse crowds, while protesters have hurled bricks, blocked roads and defaced property.

Asked whether he was worried about being allowed back into the US after demonstrating, Sze said: “There was no time to think about anything. It’s basically like a warzone.”

Even as Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) withdrew the controversial legislation, which would permit criminals to be sent to China to stand trial under its legal system, activists have vowed to push on amid fears of further eroding rights, saying the move was too little, too late.

“The things that we’re doing abroad is pretty much to support the people in Hong Kong and tell them they’re not alone,” Frances Hui (許穎婷), an organizer in Boston who spoke at Saturday’s UN For Taiwan/Keep Taiwan Free rally, said in an interview.

“We’re very glad that different communities, including the Taiwanese community, are in solidarity with Hong Kong people,” Hui added.

At Saturday’s rally, which ended behind New York Police Department barricades across from the Chinese Consulate on 42nd Street, Taiwan-native Carol Yeh (葉桂如) worked the crowd looking for people to sign a petition. It asked members of the US Congress to consider co-sponsoring the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

The bill, among other things, calls for the secretary of state to certify Hong Kong’s autonomy from mainland China in order for it to continue enjoying special trade and economic benefits under the US-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.

It would also require the US president to identify those responsible for abducting Hong Kong booksellers and journalists, and make clear that visas should not be denied just because applicants participated in nonviolent pro-democracy protests.

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