After the thousands of Chinese supporters lining the Mall, Tuesday’s showing at the Guildhall in the City of London was minuscule by comparison. Even so, police had separated pro-CCP and protesters by barriers perhaps 20 metres apart, on either side of the route Xi Jinping would travel to his banquet. Around 60 Tibetan and Falun Gong activists held banners, with Tibetans occasionally loudly chanting for an end to CCP occupation.
Earlier in the day two Tibetan activists and Chinese democracy activist and Tiananmen survivor Shao Jiang were arrested after attempting to wave flags at president Xi’s car. According to the NGO Tibetan Community UK, they were released a day later.
Notably absent were most of the media that had so enthusiastically covered the first day of the visit.
Up the road, businessmen and dignitaries in black tie were forced to navigate the police blockade in order to attend the banquet, the chants of activists clearly audible to them.
Oddly, two Western women were seemingly part of the pro-CCP contingent, holding banners and chatting to the Chinese people who were there. They did not want to be interviewed, with one of them refusing to say anything other than she was an “interested observer”.
Two activists describe their experiences of the day.
Edward Zhang, Falun Gong
Yesterday I started at the Mall and we had quite a few people doing interviews with us. This morning when we were in front of Downing Street a lot of Chinese students were organised and tried to block us with their banners. We were in an enclosure for protesters, calmly setting up our banners. One of our people put up a banner and had a Chinese girl in front of her putting up a Chinese flag. She talked with her and the Chinese student told her, “I already quit the Chinese Communist Party online.”
Although there were lots of Chinese students, most of them were not actually hostile. When we finished the event, on the way back some of us were chatting to a group of Chinese students. This student had a Chinese flag on her cheek and asked to have a photo with us. So they really aren’t hostile at all.
Although they blocked our banners at Downing Street the police asked them to move away. They refused so the police directed us to the place directly in front of Downing Street and we could fix our banners on the front of the fence. The police feel we are trustworthy because we’re so calm.
We have been collecting signatures for a petition against organ harvesting. People are so willing to sign.
Even police, although they are on duty, are still keen to know what is happening. One policeman said he could see we were so peaceful. He asked me why such a peaceful exercise practice is being persecuted. It’s very hard to explain why people would want to persecute it. I said it’s because practitioners of Falun Gong have guiding principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. That means they have a free mind. All of a sudden the policeman said he understood, a free mind isn’t tolerated in China.
Sonam Anjatsang, Tibetan
I’m a film-maker, I have made three films about Tibetans. For the first one I went to Ladakh in India, me as a Tibetan searching for Tibet outside Tibet. The second was me trying to see how close I could get to Tibet so I went to Mustang in Nepal and tried to cross over the border. The third is about 23 old Tibetans who tell the story of before and after the Chinese invasion and their lives in exile.
The people are different today. Lots of Tibetans took holidays during the Dalai Lama’s visit to the UK, but I saved my holiday for this. I’ve got a back problem, so I had to go to work for the whole week in pain so I could take these days off.
Yesterday I saw a lot of Chinese tourists passing by and I don’t think they had a clue who we are. The only thing they noticed was there was a lot of Chinese flags and we were shouting. They were curious and taking pictures.
In terms of the media, I think it has been really good this time, because of all the human rights issues and “Britain’s big sell-off”. People are feeling frustrated and there is lots of sympathy. Every time they show a clip of Xi Jinping they always show us.
I know there’s a truth behind me. Some people ask if I get upset or angry with the CCP supporters. Personally, I don’t, I just find them ignorant. If it’s old people generally you find them stubborn but these are really young people who tour the world and still they have such a hard line. And I’m thinking, “What’s wrong with you?”