Hong Kong activists have raised nearly HK$5.5 million (over US$700,000) in a single day in an effort to buy space on the front pages of major international newspapers to run an open letter calling for intervention in the city’s ongoing extradition bill row at the upcoming G20 summit.
The call for donations went out on the popular crowdfunding site GoGetFunding yesterday, setting a deadline of 11:59pm tomorrow to raise HK$3 million, though organizers have already blown well past that goal.
“Our government has pushed a bill that would extradite ‘fugitives’ in Hong Kong — citizens, foreigners and tourists alike — to China for alleged crimes,” the proposed letter reads. “We feared these arbitrary ‘deportations’. We shouted, to deaf ears. Lawyers, chambers of commerce, and millions of us were all rubbished by chief executive Carrie Lam.”
The letter then lists protesters’ oft-repeated demands of fully withdrawing the bill (it is currently only suspended), investigating the heavy-handed police response to an unruly protest on June 12, and releasing the protesters arrested over that demonstration.
“If Lam truly wants to restore our trust, she just needs to meet our three humble demands,” the letter continues.
“Sadly, she won’t listen to us. We now need your support: get our voices heard at your governments and consulates; let freedom prevail at the upcoming G20 summit and beyond. We can be saved, if you act now.”
The anonymous organizers — the account was created by “Freedom Hongkonger” — say they plan to buy space on the front page of the US and Asia editions of the Financial Times (purportedly for some HK$149,000), posting an email from an FT ad sales rep confirming their account had been established.
They also suggested that they are exploring buying space in other major publications as well, including the New York Times (which they say would cost well over HK$1.5 million) and the Wall Street Journal.
The action comes after the FT withdrew an op-ed on the use of technology in organizing Hong Kong’s recent “leaderless” protests after it discovered that its authors were using pseudonyms.
Posted last Thursday, the op-ed was swiftly removed after netizens pointed out that its authors’ names — Linden Chai and Ko-ng Lui — were anglicizations of “Boys on LIHKG” (a popular online forum) and “Kong Girl” respectively.
— Kris Cheng (@krislc) June 20, 2019
The removal, however, appears only to have further steeled Hong Kong’s mostly young online community to grab international attention. Just this morning, one LIHKG user posted about the crowdfunding, with donations taking off shortly thereafter.
As of around 10am the page had secured about HK$500,000. At around 3:30pm, the page stopped accepting new donations, having secured almost 11 times that amount, with more than 22,000 donors chipping in.
However, in spite of the intense focus being paid by extradition opponents to the upcoming G20, it remains unclear whether foreign governments will be willing or able to compel China to discuss the issue.
Just yesterday, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Jun said the G20 was intended to focus on economic issues, and that China would not allow discussion of the situation in Hong Kong.