Since 2017, China has prohibited any political activity by foreign organizations, under a law modeled on one that Russia adopted after the “color revolutions” swept former Soviet republics.

Hong Kong, by contrast, still allows nongovernmental organizations a great deal of freedom, and the work that many of them do is effectively an affront to the values of the Communist government in Beijing. The National Endowment for Democracy, for example, regularly distributes grants to organizations working to preserve democratic rights — a goal very much in line with the protests.

Its grants in 2018 included $155,000 for the Solidarity Center, the American labor advocacy group allied with the AFL-CIO, and $90,000 to the Hong Kong Justice Center, an organization in Hong Kong that monitors the territory’s compliance with rights defined by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

“The process we’re engaging with is an official United Nations process, which China is a part of,” said Annie Li, a senior researcher with the Hong Kong Justice Center, referring to the annual assessments of human rights known as the Universal Periodic Review. “They’re obviously aware of our work.”

Another organization that has worked in Hong Kong, the National Democratic Institute — a Democratic Party-affiliated partner of the National Endowment for Democracy — received $200,000 from the endowment in 2018. The institute’s president, Derek Mitchell, who previously served as ambassador to Myanmar, called the accusations that Americans have fomented or funded the protests “utterly ridiculous.”

The institute’s work has been to promote civil society by organizing training seminars for scholars, lawyers and civil servants, according to the National Endowment for Democracy’s grant. That the Chinese government views such advocacy as a threat, Mr. Mitchell said, “shows their insecurity.”

“It’s a fairly consistent theme from China and other authoritarian governments,” he said. “They can either accept responsibility for their own behavior, or they can blame others.”



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