UK Protesters Call for Freedom in Hong Kong

UK Protesters Call for Freedom in Hong Kong
Union flag banners hang across a street near the Houses of Parliament in central London on June 25, 2016. (Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)
Jane Werrell

LONDON—Those on the front line of the Hong Kong protests wear household goods to protect themselves, like helmets, masks, and cling film.

“When the teargas hits you, especially the later versions of teargas, it gives you bubbles on the skin,” said John (not his real name) who had cling film wrapped around his arm at a rally in west London.

Since the protests started, police in Hong Kong say they have fired 1,000 rounds of tear gas.

John has lived in the UK for 16 years but said he wants to stand up for Hong Kongers back home.

He’s one of a loose group of protestors called Stand with HK, who organized billboard adverts in five UK cities on Aug. 3 to bring the issue to people’s attention.

“As a British national and a Hong Kong citizen, I worry that whenever I go back to Hong Kong or China, I’ll be prosecuted because of what I do,” he said.

Pressure On New Cabinet Ministers

The message from the protesters was clear as they held banners that read “Will Boris surrender to Hong Kong?” and “Will Britain hold China to its promise on Hong Kong’s freedom?”

They don’t want to lose their freedoms, and are calling on the UK government to help.

“The Conservative government, especially Boris Johnson, they need to stand up against China, they need to uphold what was promised by Margaret Thatcher and Deng Xiaoping back in 1984. The joint declaration which promised that Hong Kong will have 50 years of freedom after the handover in 1997,” said John.

According to their website, their public fundraising campaign raised about £320,000 ($390,000) in less than a day. It funded social media posts and newspaper adverts to raise awareness.

Separately, in an open letter by human rights group Hong Kong Watch, British lawmakers, including former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Lord Alton, an independent crossbench peer, called on Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urging him to stand up for Hong Kongers.

“The Sino-British Joint Declaration provides the United Kingdom with a moral and legal obligation, under international law, to continue to stand with the people of Hong Kong,” the letter reads.

Protests in Hong Kong began over worries about a new extradition bill, which means anyone living in or passing through Hong Kong could be sent to mainland China for prosecution if requested by the Chinese communist regime.

While Hong Kong’s leader said the bill was suspended, she didn’t completely withdraw it.

Since then the protests have evolved, as Hong Kongers question the role of democracy in their city.

Tensions are rising in Hong Kong, but the protestors in the UK said they hope that at least their efforts might be a small step toward a bigger change.