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Hong Kong protesters sing Star Spangled Banner, appeal to Trump to ‘liberate’ city

Thousands of Hong Kong protesters on Sunday sang the Star Spangled Banner and called on President Donald Trump to “liberate” the Chinese-ruled city, the latest in a series of demonstrations that have gripped the territory for months.

Police stood by as protesters, under a sea of umbrellas against the sub-tropical sun, waved the Stars and Stripes and placards appealing for democracy after another night of violence in the 14th week of unrest.

“Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” they shouted before handing over petitions at the U.S. Consulate. “Resist Beijing, liberate Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong has been rocked by a summer of unrest kicked off by a proposed law that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Many saw the extradition bill as a glaring example of the Chinese territory’s eroding autonomy since the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.

Hong Kong’s government promised last week to withdraw the bill — an early demand of protesters — but that has failed to appease the demonstrators, who have widened their demands to include other issues, such as greater democracy.

Sunday’s rally followed overnight violent clashes between protesters and police at several metro stations.

The unrest has become the biggest challenge to Beijing’s rule since Hong Kong’s return from Britain.

Beijing and the entirely state-controlled media have portrayed the protests as an effort by criminals to split the territory from China, backed by hostile foreigners.

Protesters on Sunday urged Washington to pass a bill, known as the Hong Kong Democratic and Human Rights Act, to support their cause.

The bill proposes sanctions against Hong Kong and Chinese officials found to suppress democracy and human rights in the city, and could also affect Hong Kong’s preferential trade status with the U.S.

The State Department said in a travel advisory Friday that Beijing has undertaken a propaganda campaign “falsely accusing the United States of fomenting unrest in Hong Kong.” It said U.S. citizens and embassy staff have been the target of the propaganda and urged them to exercise increased caution.

Some U.S. lawmakers have spoken out strongly in support of the Hong Kong protesters and voiced concern about the potential for a brutal crackdown by China.

Trump, however, has indicated the U.S. would stay out of a matter he considers between Hong Kong and China. He has said he believes the U.S. trade war with China is making Beijing tread carefully.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Saturday urged China to exercise restraint in Hong Kong.