Thousands of students formed human chains outside schools across Hong Kong on Monday to show solidarity after violent weekend clashes to push for democratic reforms in the semiautonomous Chinese territory.
The silent protest comes as the Hong Kong government condemned the “illegal behavior of radical protesters” and warned the US to stay out of its affairs.
Thousands of demonstrators held a peaceful march Sunday to the US Consulate to seek Washington’s support, but violence erupted later in the day in a business and retail district as protesters vandalized subway stations, set fires and blocked traffic, prompting police to fire tear gas.
Hong Kong’s government agreed last week to withdraw an extradition bill that sparked a summer of protests, but demonstrators want other demands to be met, including greater democracy.
Protesters in their Sunday march appealed to President Donald Trump to “stand with Hong Kong” and ensure Congress pass a bill that proposes economic sanctions and penalties on Hong Kong and China officials found to suppress democracy and human rights in the city.
Hong Kong’s government expressed regret over the US bill, known as the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. It said in a statement Monday that “foreign legislatures should not interfere in any form in the internal affairs” of Hong Kong.
The government said it was “very much in Hong Kong’s own interest to maintain our autonomy to safeguard our interests and advantages under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle” after the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement last week that Hong Kong residents deserve real autonomy and freedom from fear. She urged an end to police violence against protesters and said Congress looks forward to “swiftly advancing” the Hong Kong bill.
The unrest has become the biggest challenge to Beijing’s rule since it took over Hong Kong, and an embarrassment to its ruling Communist party ahead of Oct. 1 celebrations of its 70th year in power.