US lawmakers nominate HK protesters for Nobel Prize

Pro-democracy protesters gather at Victoria Park in Hong Kong on Dec 8, 2019. (AP pic)

HONG KONG: A bipartisan group of prominent US lawmakers has nominated Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters for the Nobel Peace Prize, a move that could anger China amid continued tensions between the two countries.

In a letter to the Nobel Peace Prize committee, US Senators Marco Rubio and James McGovern – the Republican and Democratic heads of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China – recommended awarding the prize to the “countless and often anonymous individuals [who] risked their lives, their health, their jobs, and their education to support a better future for Hong Kong.

“This prize would honour the millions of people in Hong Kong whose bravery and determination have inspired the world,” the lawmakers wrote, praising the movement as “impressively organised and coherent, yet notably leaderless and flexible.”

The letter to the Nobel committee comes at a particularly sensitive time, as Beijing struggles to contain a rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak that has already spread around the world and risks exacerbating a broader economic slowdown in the country.

Tense time

The decision to nominate Hong Kong’s protesters, who have clashed with riot police in the former British colony for more than seven months, could spur new Chinese accusations of foreign interference in Hong Kong.

China has described the US as a “black hand” behind the protests – a claim the State Department has dismissed as “ridiculous.”

China has frequently accused the protesters of seeking support, guidance and even funding from foreign governments that hope to destabilise the Chinese economy.

It has also compared the demonstrators – who have thrown petrol bombs and bricks at police and vandalised the city’s subway system – to terrorists.

Hong Kong’s police, meanwhile, have fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters and arrested thousands over months of clashes.

The American lawmakers’ recommendation follows a 2018 Nobel letter in support of prominent activist Joshua Wong and other leaders of Hong Kong’s 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement.

Hong Kong’s protests began in June over opposition to since-scrapped legislation that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.

They morphed into a broader movement against Beijing’s grip over the financial hub.