DAVIS, Calif.—A group of University of California Davis students rallied peacefully on Oct. 16 to support the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement and to defend their own freedom of speech on campus from bullying, intimidation, and censorship by students from mainland China.
The rally started with a minute of silence for Hong Kong protesters who were jailed and passed away during the last four months of protests.
“We are standing on the right side of history,” stated Mark Godges, one of the organizers of the rally. “Our minds are set for nothing but liberty.”
Godges thanked the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, and urged the U.S. Senate to support the bill.
Godges is studying Chinese at the university.
The students’ rally received support from the office of California District No. 3 Congressman John Garamendi (D).
“Congressman Garamendi stands with you. [The] House of Representatives stand with you. American people stand with you, and soon the Senate and United States president will stand with you,” said Aaron Latta, Garamendi’s representative who spoke at the rally.
Signs were provided at the rally to explain the Hong Kong protesters’ five demands: “complete withdrawal of the extradition bill,” “release of arrested protesters without charges,” “withdrawal of characterization of all protests as riots,” “independent investigation into police brutality,” and “implementation of full universal suffrage.”
The four-month-long protests in Hong Kong were originally triggered by a newly proposed extradition bill that many feared would result in some Hong Kong residents being sent to mainland China to face trials under the Chinese regime’s legal system.
Fernando, one of the student organizers of the rally, told The Epoch Times that the messages supporting the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement have been under censorship and intimidation from students who are from mainland China.
Fernando wore a black mask at the rally, similar to the ones worn by protesters on Hong Kong streets, and declined to give out his last name.
Over 100 students participated in the rally, and many of them wore face masks.
According to Fernando, students from mainland China have been tearing down posters and signs and erasing chalk messages that supported the Hong Kong protests. Chinese students have also been on social media accusing the pro-democracy students of being CIA-backed cockroaches.
Fernando said that one of the Chinese students once brought a Doberman dog to bark at the groups supporting Hong Kong and tried to scare them away. Fernando said that was considered an act of intimidation.
“We are just here to stand with Hong Kong and to speak out that we are not scared. We support Hong Kong,” said Fernando. “We support democracy, freedom of speech, and justice.”
Not long after the rally started, two male and one female Chinese-speaking students approached the rally. One of the male students kept flipping off the people in the rally. Another repeatedly swore loudly, yelling: “[Expletive] your mother. Hong Kong has no mother.”
At one point, the student who kept flipping people off came very close to a female student wearing a face mask and shouted at her, “Take your mask down.”
The female student did not back off but said, “Don’t ever touch me.”
The Chinese students who were against the rally shouted, “Hong Kong is a part of China,” before they left the rally.
William Jung, who was also one of the organizers of the rally, said that the Chinese students against the rally are welcome to express their opinions.
“They are entitled to support China; that is [what] democracy [is] all about,” he said. However, he added, “We would like them to be respectful.”
Jung’s father is American, and his mother is from Hong Kong. He said that the fight is not about the independence of Hong Kong, but about the universal suffrage promised to Hong Kong’s people by Hong Kong’s Basic Law.
“But China has not given [the universal suffrage] to us yet,” Jung said.
“I understand the feeling [of] having your freedom physically stripped away. I understand the fear that comes from knowing that one of the most powerful governments in the world wants to silence you,” commented Tenzin, a female Tibetan student who spoke at the rally. She also declined to give her last name.
“The Chinese government condemns separatism. However, nothing caused more separations than killing citizens. China, you are dividing your own people,” Tenzin said.
She said she fears that the people of Hong Kong will end up in Tibet’s situation with “no autonomy, no rights.”
A few students from Hong Kong spoke at the rally to share their personal experiences of going back to Hong Kong and seeing tear gas and rubber bullets shot by police hurting the protesters.
One student speaking at the rally shared his new rap song about supporting Hong Kong democracy and human rights. The song was written in both Chinese and English.
At the end of the rally, students sang the anthem of the Hong Kong protests and shouted together: “Go, go, Hongkongers,” “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” “Five demands, not one less,” and “There are no rioters, only tyranny.”
The university authorities have put out a joint statement supporting freedom of student expression regarding the ongoing Hong Kong protests, stating: “We affirm the right of freedom of expression within our community. We fully support the open exchange of ideas and expression of perspectives.”