Hong Kong protesters are calling for massive ATM withdrawals in an economic warning to China

Thomas Peter / ReutersRiot police outside a HSBC bank in Hong Kong on August 11, 2019.
  • Hong Kong protesters are trying something new on August 16 – withdrawing their money from banks or converting it to US dollars.
  • Protesters are hoping to protect their assets in case of further Chinese intervention and show the People’s Republic of China and Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam that there will be economic consequences for ignoring protesters’ appeals.
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Hong Kong protesters have come up with a new nonviolent protest tactic – taking all their money out of ATMs and banks to send a message to the People’s Republic of China and Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

On August 16, Hong Kong protesters plan to withdraw as much money as possible from their banks or change their currency into US dollars, both to protect their own assets and to show the mainland that the semiautonomous island is more than just a cash cow.

Posts in LIHKG, Hong Kong’s version of Reddit, show photos of hard currency withdrawn from banks, as well as ATMs declaring they’re out of cash. While the official protest is set to take place on August 16, Hongkongers have begun to take out their cash in advance because they can withdraw only $US20,000 per day.

The Hong Kong student who started this latest protest, which activists have named the Cashout HKD to USD, told INSIDER that as of Thursday, over 70 million Hong Kong dollars (nearly $US9 million) had been withdrawn, both in Hong Kong currency and in US currency; the claim couldn’t be independently verified. More than 400 protesters have recorded their withdrawals, and a Telegram channel for the protest has over 1,500 members.

Read more: Hong Kong activists use ‘Pok√©mon Go’ and Tinder to organise as police crack down on protests

The Hong Kong protests have been going on for 10 weeks, and while they have become increasingly violent, they have also become increasingly creative, with activists using laser pointers to protest the arrest of a student.

The latest method intends to strike Lam and the People’s Republic of China where it hurts.

“This may work because Carrie Lam and the PRC care much about the economy,” the Hong Kong student who started the protest told INSIDER.

The student said this movement, like the others, demands the Hong Kong government do five things: “Completely withdraw the extradition bill; retract the proclamation that the protests were riots; withdraw criminal charges against all protesters; thoroughly investigate abuse of powers by the police; dissolve the Legislative Council by administrative order; and immediately implement dual universal suffrage.”

Other activists expressed fear about the fate of Hong Kong’s currency, given the current, and likely future, instability.

A post in LIHKG says the Hong Kong dollar will cease to be pegged to the US dollar within the year and that foreign capital will flow out of Hong Kong as China continues to threaten Hong Kong with military involvement.

“If you want to protect yourself, you must first convert most of the assets … in order to maintain value in US dollars or other reliable foreign currency,” it says.

China’s messaging has encouraged peace and stability in Hong Kong so that economic activity can continue without interruption. Hong Kong is one of Asia’s main financial sectors and China’s economic bridge to the rest of the world.

But given that China has seen its economy and standard of living grow exponentially in recent decades, that economic boon hasn’t necessarily translated to many Hongkongers; there are serious economic disparities there, with marginalized groups like ethnic minorities, low-income workers, and women more likely to fall into poverty, the South China Morning Post reported.

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