Several of the leaders of Hong Kong's protesters appealed directly to U.S. lawmakers to exert pressure on Beijing, warning that an erosion of the city's special status would embolden China's leaders around the world. In an appearance likely to infuriate Beijing, young people at the forefront of Hong Kong's mass protests testified before a congressional commission in support of U.S. legislation.
Demonstrations began on June 9 against a controversial piece of legislation that would have allowed for criminal extradition to mainland China. Since then, however, they have spiraled into a larger anti-government movement and the worst political crisis since Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Protesters marched to the U.S. Consulate earlier this month, urging President Donald Trump to "liberate" their city in a bid to ramp up international pressure on Beijing. Many of them, clad in black shirts and wearing masks, waved American flags and carried posters that read "President Trump, please liberate Hong Kong."
China has earlier condemned "gross interference" by Western countries, especially the U.S. and Britain, while accusing them of fomenting the demonstrations. It has denounced the protests and warned of the damage to the economy of Hong Kong, a major financial center. It also framed the protests as "terrorism," part of a pattern of increasingly ominous warnings that have raised fears it might deploy force to quell the unrest.