Hong Kong protesters seek ex-colonial master UK’s help to stand up to China
Protesters in Hong Kong have called on the UK to do more to protect its former colonial subjects, as semi-autonomous city has been battered by nearly 100 days of protests.
Protesters rallied outside Britain’s consulate in Hong Kong on Sunday, Sep. 15, making their desire known in an unironic manner — which is hugely ironic.
They were asking for the UK, Hong Kong’s former colonial master, to ramp up pressure on Beijing over sliding freedoms.
Hundreds of demonstrators sang God Save the Queen and Rule Britannia outside the consulate.
The Union Jack, together with Hong Kong’s colonial-era flags, were waved.
However, Sunday’s protest outside the UK mission was significantly smaller than a huge march the week before to the United States consulate that saw tens of thousands turn out.
This was despite the large rally that made its way through the city streets on Sunday afternoon, despite a police ban on protests, accompanied by warnings that the gathering was illegal.
What protesters want from UK
“Sino-British Joint Declaration is VOID,” one protest sign read, referencing the 1984 agreement that Hong Kongers were given no say over, but paved the way for the city’s handover.
“So far I’m quite disappointed by the fact that the UK hasn’t done anything to support us,” one protester, a recent graduate, told AFP.
Many called for citizenship in Britain or other Commonwealth nations to be granted to Hong Kongers who want to leave the city.
Not that there was no precedence.
Some Hong Kongers were given British National Overseas (BNO) passports before the handover.
This BNO document allows holders easy travel to the UK, but no working or residency rights are granted.
A protester who holds a BNO passport told AFP: “At least with the full citizenship they can protect Hong Kong people from the Chinese government.”
UK in testy relationship with China
The UK is in a bit of a bind when it comes to dealing with China these days in the midst of the Brexit mess.
Before this 15th weekend of protests, some 130 UK lawmakers signed a joint letter calling for Britain and Commonwealth countries to come up with an “insurance policy” for Hongkongers to resettle overseas should they wish to.
Meanwhile, China has been singling out Britain and the United States for criticism, as the rising dragon of a nation has portrayed the protests as foreign-funded and a meddling of its internal affairs.
Britain has been keen to keep Beijing as a valuable trade partner, especially given the uncertainty thrown up by its imminent departure from the European Union.
But it has also expressed concerns about the direction Hong Kong is heading.
Britain has said it has a duty to ensure Beijing upholds the deal it struck before the handover.
“The Joint Declaration is a legally binding treaty between the UK and China that remains as valid today as it was when it was signed and ratified over 30 years ago,” a British Foreign Office spokeswoman said in June.
Hong Kong protests to continue to Oct. 1
The movement in Hong Kong has vowed to continue until key demands are met, including an inquiry into the police, an amnesty for those arrested and universal suffrage.
Fights between protesters and police have toned down over the past two weekends, an indication that the waxing and waning could be a sign the end of protests is nowhere in sight.
The symbolic Oct. 1, 2019 date has become a target to meet.
That will be when leaders in Beijing are planning huge celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.
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