By Jesse Stiller
Protesters in China attempted to restore a level of peace between the People’s Liberation Army and anti-government demonstrators on Aug. 17 and 18, as tensions continue to boil on the streets of Hong Kong.
CNN reported that for the 11th straight weekend, 1.7 million people joined the predominantly peaceful rally starting in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park, a welcome sight for the city that has recently faced a string of violence. Last weekend’s protests called for greater democracy in Hong Kong and more government accountability, in addition to a currently-shelved extradition bill.
The international pro-democracy organization, Civil Rights Human Front, organized the group’s third rally since June. Most participants wore black in solidarity and called for Hong Kong’s liberation from China, according to CNN.
There were other peaceful demonstrations in Tamar Park and nearby Mong Kok as well, and despite a few skirmishes with law enforcement, there were few reports of violence against protesters.
According to NPR, the protests first arose in February when the Hong Kong government proposed a bill that would allow Chinese authorities to extradite crime suspects from Hong Kong to mainland China.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam shelved the bill indefinitely in July, but stopped short of declaring the bill “dead,” leaving the possibility of the bill returning to the Legislative council, according to NPR. The Hong Kong Free Press reported that the move came shortly after protesters stormed and briefly occupied the chamber.
The peaceful protests came only a week after anti-government protesters occupied the Hong Kong International Airport, according to Time Magazine.
Xu Luying, a spokeswoman for the Macau Affairs Office under the State Council, told The South China Morning Post that the assaults and protests constituted “nearly acts of terrorism.”
“‘Their behavior was in extreme contempt for laws, and they have seriously tarnished Hong Kong’s international image,’” Luying told The South China Morning Post.
However, CNN reported that the attempts for more peaceful protests came at a time when Chinese paramilitary forces are organizing along the Hong Kong border in an apparent attempt to subdue the growing protests.
President Donald Trump also warned China against a “Tiananmen Square” crackdown against protesters, according to France 24, and said that such a crackdown would harm ongoing trade talks between the U.S. and China.
“‘I think it’d be very hard to deal with if they do violence. I mean, if it’s another Tiananmen Square,’” Trump said, according to France 24. “‘I think it’s a very hard thing to do if there’s violence.’”
Beijing has commented against the protests on a frequent basis, with strongly worded statements from officials within Chinese President Xi Jinping’s cabinet and members of mainland China’s Communist party, including new accusations that China used Facebook and Twitter to fuel disinformation and sew discord in Hong Kong, according to Vox.
“‘I need to reemphasize a plain truth,’” said Hua Chunying, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson in a general presser in February. “‘Hong Kong is part of China, and its affairs are entirely China’s internal affairs.’”