Hong Kong protesters seek British support; campus siege ends

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Bomb disposal police watch from a cordoned area as evidence is collected in a cordoned off area in the Polytechnic University campus in Hong Kong, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. Police safety teams Thursday began clearing a university that was a flashpoint for clashes with protesters, and an officer said any holdouts still hiding inside would not be immediately arrested. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

HONG KONG – Hundreds of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists rallied Friday outside the British Consulate, urging the city’s former colonial ruler to emulate the U.S. and take concrete actions to support their cause, as police ended a blockade of a university campus after 12 days.

Waving British flags, the activists urged Britain to ensure that Hong Kong political dissidents do not suffer the same fate as Simon Cheng, a former British Consulate employee in the city who says he was detained and tortured by Chinese secret police.

The rally came a day after U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law two bills to support democracy and human rights in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

“The U.K. should enforce similar laws and should have done even more” to support the protest movement, said a masked rally organizer who identified herself only as Dawn. Activists handed a petition to a British Consulate official before leaving.

Beijing denies torturing Cheng and says he was held for soliciting prostitution during a business trip to mainland China in August. Cheng says he agreed to confess to avoid harsher charges. He says he was hooded, beaten and chained to a metal frame as Chinese secret police sought information on activists involved in the protests and on Britain’s purported role.

Cheng has left the consulate and is in hiding.

Violence in Asia’s top financial hub has abated since a stunning victory by the pro-democracy camp in Nov. 24 local elections, seen as a sharp rebuke to the city’s embattled leader, Carrie Lam.

Protesters are planning more rallies this weekend to keep up their pressure on Lam, who has refused to offer any new concessions to their demands, including greater democracy and an independent probe into alleged police brutality.