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Hong Kong Protests Impact Bay Area Travel, Trade; Activists Worried About Gov. Violence

STANFORD (KPIX 5) -- There's growing concern among Bay Area Hong Kong supporters that the Chinese government could use violence to put down a recent wave of protests.

"We're putting on yellow helmets, masks and goggles in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong, said Alan Cheng, who was born and raised in Hong Kong. Cheng is now a leader of the Northern California Hong Kong Club, a Bay Area effort to raise awareness for his hometown's fight for democracy.

"What we're seeing is Hong Kongers defending their rights, their fundamental rights in direct response to the ever-tightening, unconstitutional and illegal police brutality," said Cheng.

Anti-government protesters clashed with police after staging a sit-in at Hong Kong's main airport. Travelers coming into San Francisco International Airport say the protests delayed flights for more than a day, but one delayed traveler was supportive.

"They really got their message out to the world, and so I'm happy for that."

In the Bay Area, there were signs of support for the protesters from students at UC Berkeley. They wrote messages at a so-called John Lennon wall at Sproul Plaza, although there were some reports that pro-China students took some of the messages down.

Hong Kong was once a British colony, but agreements signed by Britain and China over how Hong Kong would revert to Chinese control spelled out the city's autonomy, democratic principles and civil rights that some say China is now trying to take away.

"China is narrowing the range of civil rights, tightening control," said David Lampton, an author and fellow at Stanford's Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. Lampton said the current situation could further damage U.S.-China relations, as well as disrupt Asia-Pacific markets.

"If China were to use force to quell the protests, it would be compared to Tienanman in 1984. This would just create alienation."

Hong Kong supporters will continue to monitor the developments, but in the meantime, they plan to show their support at a rally to be held this Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Embarcadero Plaza in San Francisco.

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