Lee and Lai
© Reuters/Tyrone Siu
Hong Kong politician Martin Lee and Founder of Next Media Jimmy Lai march during a protest to demand authorities scrap a proposed extradition bill with China, in Hong Kong, China, on March 31, 2019.
Massive protests which gripped Hong Kong this summer have been portrayed as leaderless. Yet, there were people who held clear sway over the crowds. But who directs them?

As 'leaderless' as the crowds of protesters clashing with police on the streets of China's Special Administrative Region may have seemed, they still were largely influenced by a whole group of public figures, politicians, parties and organizations. And it turns out that some key figures behind the unrest had longstanding ties with the global "beacon of democracy" - Washington, DC.

One of the men at the center of the protest movement is a Hong Kong tycoon, Jimmy Lai, whose company owns one of the most-read local papers, a tabloid called the Apple Daily. Another one is politician and barrister, Martin Lee, the founding chairman of the local Democratic Party. Both men visited Washington at the height of the protests to meet with some high-ranking US officials including State Secretary Mike Pompeo.


And as a former senior adviser in the Trump and Bush administrations Christian Whiton, who met both Lai and Lee in Hong Kong this summer, put it "causing this crisis for the Chinese government ... is good in the national interests of the US."

The Democratic Party is perceived as openly anti-China and its former vice chair and one of its founding members, Tik Chi-Yuen, said he had to leave because Lee and his followers rejected the very idea of dialogue. "My understanding is that dialogue with Beijing is very important ... but they want only fighting," he told RT America's Miсhele Greenstein.

Lee himself denied taking "any overseas donations because it is not allowed." However, while it is indeed forbidden for the Hong Kong parties to take money from foreign governments it is apparently another story when it comes to foreign NGOs, as RT America's Michele Greenstein reports.