A man wearing a yellow face mask attaches a Hong Kong flag to a flag pole.

Hong Kongers say no to authoritarianism

After a summer of large demonstrations remembering pro-democracy protests in their home city, Bristol’s Hong Kongers returned to College Green again to defy the Chinese government. 

Bristol is home to several thousand Hong Kongers, many of whom fled their home city following a crackdown on pro-democracy movements in 2019 by the Hong Kong government, which many see as a puppet of the Chinese government. 

Hong Kongers in Bristol, a group of those who moved here, organised the demo to express their anger at the Chinese government, which they see as authoritarian. The 2019 protests were sparked by attempts by Beijing to pass an Extradition Law under which Hong Kongers could be sent to China for trial, breaching the supposed separation of powers between Hong Kong and the mainland. 

Read more: Hong Kongers condemn police violence with human chain

Saturday’s Say No To Authoritarianism demo was timed to fall on the National Day of the People’s Republic of China, which marks the establishment of the Republic in 1949 and is celebrated as a national holiday in China. 

Demonstrators were keen, however, to separate the anger they felt at the Chinese government from their feelings towards Chinese people, towards whom they say they feel no antipathy. 

One demonstrator, Dave, said ‘it’s something you can’t imagine, living in Hong Kong now.’

Friends of his who still live there do so in fear as laws against political expression are so stringent that small acts can be seen as dissent and punished harshly. 

Protesters crouch together. They are wearing yellow face masks and holding their hands, palms outwards, in front of them.
Protesters wear yellow, a symbolic colour of the 2019 uprisings in Hong Kong. Image: Rob Browne.

During the mourning period following the death of Queen Elizabeth, in which many Hong Kongers participated, one man was detained under a colonial-ear sedition law after playing music outside the British consulate in Hong Kong. 

Dave said that many of those now living in the UK are still afraid that images of them at a demonstration might make it back to China and be picked up by the authorities there, with consequences for them should they ever return, and for their friends and family who still live there. 

Saturday’s demo consisted of speeches on College Green followed by a march to Harbourside Square and back again. 

A photo of 200 people standing in a large group, facing the camera.
Around 200 people gathered for the demo, the group’s third this year. Image: Rob Browne.

During the demo another group, Where’s The Outcry, were holding their weekly peace vigil nearby, speaking to members of the public about the authoritarian laws being passed here in the UK, including the Police and Crime Bill and former Lord Chancellor Dominic Raab’s proposed Bill of Rights, which has recently been put on the back burner by Liz Truss. 

Hong Kongers in Bristol report enjoying living here, despite the culture shock. They even began their demo with a rendition of God Save the King. However, as groups like Where’s The Outcry know, authoritarianism is not found only on the other side of the world but can increasingly be seen right here in the UK. 

Feature image: Rob Browne.

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