Pro-democracy protesters in central Hong Kong celebrated U.S. lawmakers and President Trump on Thursday night, thanking them for passing and enacting legislation that promises to punish officials who restrict freedoms in the territory.

Of the thousands at the Thanksgiving Rally, many draped themselves in American flags and sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and some lauded Trump as an international hero by waving posters depicting a strong, shirtless American leader.

The “Swole Trump” image — the president’s face superimposed on the body of Sylvester Stallone as fictional boxing champion Rocky Balboa — circulated on the pro-Trump Internet even before his Twitter account posted the picture Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.

Pro-democracy protesters hold posters showing a Photoshopped image of President Trump during a Thanksgiving Day rally at Edinburgh Place in Hong Kong. (Chris McGrath/AFP/Getty Images)
A pro-democracy protester holds a thank-you sign. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Pro-democracy protesters take part in a Thanksgiving Day rally. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Sponsored by prominent bipartisan lawmakers, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act authorizes sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials for human rights abuses and requires an annual review of Hong Kong’s special trade status by the State Department.

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(Reuters)

The bill, enacted amid negotiations with China to end a year-long trade war, enjoyed overwhelming support in Congress; the House passed it by a vote of 417 to 1 on Nov. 20. Although Trump suggested last week he might veto the bill, he signed it Wednesday after markets closed ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

China opposes the legislation and is considering barring its drafters from entering the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Macao, according to Hu Xijin, editor of China’s Global Times tabloid.

A participant holds up a stuffed toy depicting Pepe the Frog, a character used by pro-democracy activists as a symbol of their struggle. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)

As The Washington Post previously reported, the Swole Trump image, which cartoonist Ben Garrison described as depicting a “handsome alpha male,” suggests Trump is not only strong but that his critics are weak.

Democracy supporters in Hong Kong have voiced admiration of the United States throughout its six months of political unrest, flooding the streets with pro-Trump paraphernalia, including a Star Wars-style portrait of the president with fighter jets and explosions behind him.

The mass protests were originally triggered in June by a now-withdrawn extradition bill that many viewed as an erosion of the autonomy promised when the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997. The conflict peaked this month during a 12-day siege of a university campus, where police tried to arrest anti-government demonstrators.

Protesters hold American flags and photos of President Trump on Sept. 8 in Hong Kong. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

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