Hundreds of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists have rallied outside the British Consulate, urging the city’s former colonial ruler to emulate the US and take concrete action to support their cause.
The rally came 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 claims he was detained and tortured by Chinese secret police.
The rally came a day after US President Donald Trump signed into law two Bills to support democracy and human rights in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
“The UK should enforce similar laws and should have done even more to support the protest movement”, said a masked rally organiser.
Activists handed a petition to a British Consulate official before leaving.
Beijing denies torturing Mr Cheng and says he was held for soliciting prostitution during a business trip to mainland China in August.
Mr 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.
Mr 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 local elections on November 24, 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 Ms Lam, who has refused to offer any new concessions to their demands, including greater democracy and an independent probe into alleged police brutality.
At a lunchtime rally on Friday, hundreds of people chanted slogans and carried posters telling Ms Lam that “it’s time to step down”. Protesters disrupted traffic in at least two places but dispersed after police issued warnings.
On Thursday night, thousands joined a large rally to thank America, on its Thanksgiving Day holiday, and to call on other countries to join the US in supporting the protest movement, now in its sixth month.
One of the new US laws prescribes sanctions on officials found guilty of human rights abuses and requires an annual review of a special trade status for Hong Kong. The other bans the export of certain non-lethal munitions to Hong Kong police.
China has warned of strong countermeasures and Hong Kong’s government has criticised the US move as unwarranted meddling in its affairs.
During an official visit to Thailand, Ms Lam said Hong Kong’s fundamentals, including its “one country, two systems” framework, remain strong despite the unrest.
“I and my government are listening to our people with a view to resolving some deep-seated problems in Hong Kong through dialogue,” she said, adding: “Hong Kong can bounce back.”
Earlier on Friday, police lifted their blockade of Polytechnic University, a key earlier battleground with pitched battles between protesters and riot officers.
Police said they seized 3,989 petrol bombs, 1,339 explosive items, 601 bottles of corrosive liquids and 573 weapons over two days of searching.
No protesters were found inside. Some 1,100 people have already left or have been arrested by police.
A university official estimated it would take five to six months to repair the extensive damage to the campus.