Hongkongers’ aspiration for autonomy and democracy hits London as dozens call on Westminster to play a bigger role in overseeing the implementation of the Joint Declaration.
Photo: Jack Hazlewood (second from right) leading the protest for Hong Kong outside the FCO (provided by Brits for Hong Kong).
Westminster was pushed into issuing a statement concerning Hong Kong after British citizens stepped up hoping the former colonial suzerain could fulfil its legal responsibility to ensure the city’s autonomy.
In late February, ‘Brits for Hong Kong’ held a protest outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, handing in signed letters which the group claimed had collected over 300 signatories.
Their calls received prompt response from Hugo Swire, Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, a week after the letters were passed on. In particular, the group highlighted a statement in the minister’s reply letter: “The UK retains a legal interest under international law in ensuring China fulfils its commitments to preserve rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, as China has also set out under its own legislation in the Basic Law.”
In an earlier interview, Jack Hazlewood, the group’s spokesperson and an A-level student [Ed note – blessed with a ministerial sounding name], said, “We’re a newly formed group consisting of British citizens who care about Hong Kong.”
“[T]he Chinese Communist Party is simply incompatible with democracy in Hong Kong. As long as China is under a brutal, inhumane regime, which will be the case for the foreseeable future, Hong Kong will continue to suffer as Hongkongers’ basic rights will not be respected.” Mr Hazlewood elaborated, “As such, we draw the only reasonable conclusion that can be reached – that only [through] self-rule, a Hong Kong that is run by Hong Kong people with[out] any interference from Beijing – can deliver democracy and ensure the views of the Hong Kong people are heard.”
Hugo Swire: “The UK retains a legal interest under international law in ensuring China fulfils its commitments…”
The group urged the British Government to play a bigger role in “overseeing the introduction of self-rule in Hong Kong” and grant full British citizenship to holders of BNO (British National Overseas) passports.
More recently, the group has launched two campaigns on social media, encouraging British citizens to declare their support for Hong Kong and those who align themselves with the Hong Kong identity to share their stories.
There is a trend seeing students take up the fight for democracy and ‘Brits for Hong Kong’ is riding that wave. Many of its founding members are students.
‘Jacked’ by separatists?
As Rita Clara Byford, a leading member of the group and native Hongkonger, noted, there is a general fear among Hong Kong supporters to speak out against the Chinese authority. In particular, many showed concern about the group using the old Union Jack flag as its logo.
“[T]he Chinese Communist Party is simply incompatible with democracy in Hong Kong.” – Jack Hazlewood
“They fear that [by supporting the group] they could be branded “separatists” by China. We, however, think it is important to use the old flag as we want to stress the special relationship between HK and the UK,” Ms Byford said.
“We can see that China has made many in HK believe that the British are the baddies, that the UK Government has sold them down the river, and that their only option is to ‘return to the Motherland’,” Ms Byford added. “We want to counteract their propaganda machine by letting the world know that people in the UK do care about Hong Kong. The Fishball Revolution has shocked many people here when they saw the pictures on TV and wondered what’s going on in Hong Kong…So another goal of ours is to send a message to the UK Government that British voters do care about HK.”