After Hong Kong pro-independence activist Andy Chan Ho-tin was arrested on his way to a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) event in Japan in late August, representatives from the conservative group behind the conference went to him on Tuesday.
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"Andy Chan has been very clear from the beginning what he wants is one thing: independence," American Conservative Union (ACU) board member and Asian affairs scholar Gordon Chang told FOX Business. "He made that very clear when we met him in Hong Kong. There was no sense of compromise from him."
The independence advocate was no longer detained when they visited.
"[Andy's] a very impressive young man. He is a little more radical than some of the democratic protesters," ACU Chair Matt Schlapp told FOXBusiness. "I use the word radical, but the other aspect to these protests is they’re peaceful, they’re civil. These kids are very brave."
The protesters, including a contingent of several thousand young adults, have faced tear gas and rubber bullets during demonstrations. Five representatives from the ACU were in Hong Kong from Tuesday to Thursday to meet with protesters, including Chan, who delivered a defiant address to CPAC Japan via video after he was arrested at a Hong Kong airport.
Schlapp said he was struck by the protesters' affinity for the American revolution and for President Trump.
"Half a dozen of these kids tell me, 'Please make sure you tell the president we appreciate him standing up' ... It was the idea that whatever you can do to be tough on Beijing, we’re for, because Beijing is tightening the screws on democracy in Hong Kong," Schlapp said.
Schlapp and Chang's group was in Hong Kong when its Chief Executive Carrie Lam officially withdrew the proposed extradition bill that has been at the center of the chaos on Wednesday. Chang said the small but vocal minority of pro-independence protesters want much, much more.
"I went to protests outside the Mongkok police station Wednesday night after [Lam's announcement]. … I got no sense that people were mollified by what Carrie Lam had done. The people there were just incensed," he said, explaining that protesters have a list of five demands for their government.
During their short time in Hong Kong, the ACU representatives spoke with as many people as they could, including multimillionaire entrepreneur Jimmy Lai and a protester from mainland China who had traveled to join in.
Chang predicts a long road ahead for the activists but said Chinese President Xi Jinping should be scared of the protesters' defiance spreading to the mainland. The protests could mark a historic turn for communist rule in China, he said.
Support for Hong Kong independence is limited but growing, Chang said. Some protesters he spoke with want both rhetorical support from the U.S. as well as a continuation of the U.S.-China trade war, since it weakens the communist party.