Hong Kong, the semi-autonomous territory ruled by Britain for 156 years, has been paralyzed by protests throughout 2019. 

The protests began when a bill was introduced in Hong Kong’s pro-PRC legislative body that would allow the extradition of Hong Kong residents accused of crimes to Mainland China. Even after Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam withdrew the bill, protesters remained in the streets calling for political reforms.

The BBC estimates the protest movement has swelled into the millions, with some protesters waving the American flag, British flag and the flag of Hong Kong under British rule—and most demonstrating under banners that read: “Hong Kong Is Not China.”

As the Straits Times reports, the protest movement demands “amnesty for all arrested protesters, an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, universal suffrage for the Chief Executive and Legislative Council elections, [and] resignation of Mrs. Lam, whom some accuse of being a puppet of Beijing.”


The protests have been largely peaceful, though some have turned violent. Homemade bombs have been hurled at police stations, and protesters clashed with security forces at the Hong Kong International Airport. The protest movement blames the police for starting the violence, pointing to an incident when a female demonstrator sustained a grievous eye injury at the hands of police.

The PRC’s office in Hong Kong has labeled the protesters’ actions as “serious violent crimes” and “behavior that is close to terrorism,” warning that “violent crimes must be resolutely cracked down.” According to the BBC, “Repeated use of such language suggests that China is losing patience with the protesters, and could increase the likelihood of an intervention from Beijing.”

By late August, the PRC began underlining its words with actions. As France24 reports, satellite images show PRC troops and armored personnel carriers massing in Shenzhen, just across the bay from Hong Kong. In addition, the PRC maintains a garrison of some 10,000 troops in Hong Kong. As of this writing, they have remained in their barracks, but the situation is fluid.  

Noting how the American people “remember Tiananmen Square...they remember the picture of the man standing in front of the line of tanks,” National Security Advisor John Bolton has warned Beijing that “The mood in Congress is very volatile at this point and a misstep by the Chinese government, I think, would cause an explosion on Capitol Hill.”

Indeed, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Col.), who chairs a subcommittee on East Asia, has urged the White House to “make clear to Beijing that any crackdown in Hong Kong will have profound consequences for China, including imposition of U.S. sanctions. The voice of the people of Hong Kong must be heard without fear of repression and retaliation…The world is watching.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) has added: “I can assure you that if China comes down hard on the protesters that there will be action in Congress to enforce the autonomy agreements that were entered into that are part of the special recognition of Hong Kong,”

President Trump has urged the PRC to “deal humanely with Hong Kong,” conceding that “Unfortunately, some governments don’t want democracy.”