Hong Kong-democracy and Beijing backers face off

BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH | Protesters rallying at Confucius Plaza for Hong Kong democracy were met by hundreds of pro-Beijing counterprotesters on Sat., Aug 17.

The pro-Beijing crowd was a sea of red as they waved Chinese flags and signs with the words “One China” across the street from the plaza. 

Scores of pro-Beijing demonstrators held a counterprotest on Saturday across the street from Confucius Plaza, where supporters of democracy in Hong Kong were rallying. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech).

This weekend’s protest was the fourth demonstration organized by the group NY4HK (New Yorkers for Hong Kong) but was the first time the group has faced a counterprotest. 

Before the pro-mainland China group’s arrival, tensions were already high at the rally since some members had seen threats against them on WeChat, a popular Chinese messaging platform. Some individuals posted images of bullets, handguns and even an AK-47 rifle. According to NY4HK, some messengers posted a text saying, “We are ready.”

Tensions were high before pro-Beijing counterprotesters arrived at the democracy-in-Hong Kong solidarity rally at Confucius Plaza on Sat., Aug. 17. NY4HK members said that the previous day they had received threats via WeChat, a popular Chinese messaging platform. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

According to NY4HK, the pro-China group believed the Confucius Plaza rally was for Hong Kong independence, a misconception fed to them by the Chinese state media. 

“With WeChat and their own censored news, it is very easy for them to misunderstand,” Ken from NY4HK explained.

A counterprotest by scores of Beijing supporters occurred across the street from Saturday’s democracy-in-Hong Kong rally at Confucius Plaza. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech).

All told, between the two factions, several hundred people filled Confucius Plaza and the area around it.

Beijing supporters followed pro-democracy protesters as they marched across the Manhattan Bridge and to Manhattan Bridge Small Park, where a second, slightly smaller rally took place. Gothamist reported that pro-Beijing protesters began throwing bottles at the pro-democracy group as they walked across the bridge. Shortly into the second protest, a small group of China backers attempted to storm the park but were stopped by police officers. 

According to NY4HK, the large turnout of China supporters is a reminder of the division that has always existed within the Chinese-American community. Exacerbating that division within the community abroad and in the U.S. was not the pro-democracy protesters’ intention.

A prodemocracy protester waved American flags at Confucius Plaza in response to jeers from pro-Beijing counterprotesters. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

During the protests on either side of the Manhattan Bridge, Hong Kong legislators Dennis Kwok and Alvin Yeung spoke words of encouragement, and called on Hong Kong’ government to meet protesters’ five demands. The protests in Hong Kong are now in their 11th week.

“We are not afraid of them. We will not back down,” said Kwok, a member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, speaking to the prodemocracy protesters. Yeung also shared words of encouragement and support.

“We stand together on the five demands that Hong Kongers are reasonably demanding,” Yeung declared.

Hong Kong legislator Alvin Yeung gave words of encouragement to the crowd of prodemocracy protesters at Confucius Plaza on Saturday Aug. 17. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

Pro-Beijing counterprotesters rallied across the street from Saturday’s Hong Kong-democracy rally at Confucius Plaza. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech).

The democracy protesters’ first demand is the complete withdrawal of the extradition bill. The contentious piece of legislation would allow individuals in Hong Kong to be extradited to places previously lacking an extradition treaty with the semi-autonomous territory, like mainland China.

The second demand is stop the labeling of the protests as “riots.” The Chinese state media has branded the mostly peaceful protests “riots,” which is problematic due to the 10-year prison sentence one can get for rioting in Hong Kong.

In their third demand, they want an independent investigation into excessive use of force by the Hong Kong police and possible collaboration with the triads, organized crime groups. In July, a group of more than 100 men armed with metal rods began beating protesters and bystanders at a train station. Police, arriving late to the scene of the attack, initially made no arrests, according to The New York Times. Police later arrested a few individuals who had ties to the organized crime group. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, responded by promising a police-led investigation into the incident.

The democracy protesters’ fourth demand is for the release of the detained protesters in Hong Kong. The fifth is the for the region’s chief executive and Legislative Council members to be elected by popular vote, rather than by an election committee.

Hong Kong-democracy protesters in Confucius Plaza covered their right eyes in honor of a young woman who was shot in the eye with a beanbag at a Hong Kong protest and nearly lost her vision. The image of the young woman — believed to be a medic — with her bandaged eye has become a symbol of the democracy movement. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

In Confucius Plaza, democracy supporters wore bloodied eye patches, which has become a symbol of the movement. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

12 Responses to Hong Kong-democracy and Beijing backers face off

  1. Wonder how much the pro-chinese demonstrators were paid?

  2. Marian Fernandez

    Great article about a very difficult situation.

  3. $30 along with a lunch box, allegedly paid by Hsung Hsin Association. Most protesters are from Fujianese organizations. That’s why the signs they were holding all look the same, printed from the same shop. Most of them don’t even know what they are protesting against.

  4. $30 along with a lunch box, allegedly paid by Hsung Hsin Association. Most protesters are from Fujianese organizations. That’s why the signs they were holding all look the same, printed from the same shop. Most of them don’t even know what they are protesting against.

  5. There is no evidence that the young woman’s eye was injured by police beanbag. The Hong Kong Chief Executive has asked the woman to call the police as soon as possible, but the young woman insisted on not reporting the police and refused to disclose the medical report.

    • It’s common sense. Reporting thugs to the thugs themselves is just going get her other eye blinded. The cops are fully aware of what they’ve done because it’s all over the internet.

  6. These Fukienese are the bane of most Chinese-Americans’ existence. They are lowly educated, not 100% literate let alone speak a lick of English. It’s no surprise the irony of them using their democratic rights to protest others’ fight for those SAME RIGHTS goes right over their heads.

    • Your comments are racist and have nothing to do with the situation. If you are so educated you should have the decency to respect other.

      I’m all for peaceful protest, but what’s going on in HK is way beyond that. The protest are now affecting people’s lives. Having people gather at the airport and having flights cancelled for two days is just ridiculous, what if someone needs to fly out to fly in for a medical reason. The HK people are trying to make a point and everyone gets it at this point. They just need to sit down and negotiate, give some to get some, don’t just keep demanding they must meet all 5 demands. They are just hurting themselves in the end.

  7. Actually there is quite a bit of evidence. Is there one video showing the bean bag round going from a police officer into her eyes? No. But there are several videos and photos that captured the scene before, during and after from various angles. Between the various videos, there is very compelling support for the accusation against the police. Furthermore the police have admitted to firing a number of bean bag rounds at the scene. On the contrary, people claiming that she was shot by a BB gun have not offered any evidence for that theory.

  8. Then she should go to the press or something but her not coming out makes it look suspicious. Photos and video that people publish or post always show what the person posting it wants to show.

  9. The ones on which side, MK Boy?

  10. My sympathies are with the Hong Kong protesters but the anti-Fujianese comments here are ugly and disturbing.

    This is excellent reportage, Villager, wish I had been there. So did Dennis Kwok and Alvin Yeung fly in just for this demonstration?

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