Young activists send strong message to Xi, stress UK’s role

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A group of Hong Kong natives and British expats eager to send an effective message upon the departure of CY Leung and the visit of President Xi Jinping. (Photo credit: Brits for Hong Kong)

The 20th anniversary for the handover of Hong Kong SAR is approaching on 1 July, while Chinese president, Xi Jinping, is paying a visit to the city causing tensions to rise amidst pro-democratic individuals. For them, it is an opportunity to send a message to the president, the local government, and the citizens of Hong Kong who are fuelled by the distrust of Hong Kong’s autonomy. Also, the current Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying, will be stepping down from office and succeeded by Carrie Lam who will be under pressure from the expectation of change.

The natural leaders of the pro-democratic movement have been led by the pan-democratic and localist camps, though according to Jack Hazlewood, member of the recent Organised Association of Patriotic Citizens Organised to Serve CY Leung, those camps are “incapable of putting on considered and well thought through protests during the visit – which was part of the motivation for us taking matters into our own hands.” The group aims to execute effective protests through large turnouts and media coverage to initiate change among the local and Chinese authorities. Hazlewood adds: “In approaching this in a humorous way, we feel we can achieve all of these things.”

The group comprises of both expats from the UK and Hong Kong natives who have taken part in protests in Hong Kong. Hazlewood was also spokesperson of ‘Brits for Hong Kong’ which staged a couple of protests last year calling on Westminster to fulfil its legal responsibility to ensure the city’s autonomy.

The group is hosting an eventLeaving Drinks for 689 – on 30 June in Tamar Park ‘celebrating’ CY Leung’s departure. Hazlewood states: “We’ve got a lot of fun activities planned, including red songs (a genre of songs associated with the communist regime) karaoke, drinking games, and much more. The general idea is to make a serious political point whilst also having fun.”

Regarding the incoming government and the next five years, when asked what pro-democratic individuals should strive towards over the next term, Hazlewood replies: “Assuming we see no substantive change, I think the best we could hope for is to ramp up the pressure on both the SAR government and Beijing to deliver on promises of universal suffrage and, hopefully, the permanent shelving of plans to introduce Article 23 [of the Basic Law], amongst many other things. In the long term, I personally believe constitutional reform (along the lines of extending one country, two systems in perpetuity and introducing mechanisms to ensure infringements are not tolerated) to be the most realistic change we could hope for.”

Regarding pro-democratic individuals conveying an effective message upon the visit of Xi Jinping, Hazlewood claims that the group is “sending a message that Beijing’s approach to managing Hong Kong is destroying the city as we know it, and ultimately threatening the stability that Beijing is seeking.”

“What Xi must understand is he can control Hong Kong better through controlling it less. At present, all that is being achieved is that he is incurring the wrath of HongKongers, whilst gradually eroding the unique culture of Hong Kong. Most HongKongers aren’t spiteful and genuinely want a constructive relationship with Beijing, but how can anybody stand by in the current circumstances and welcome Xi to Hong Kong with open arms?” He adds.

Authoritative figures from mainland China such as Xi should be met with a loud voice, to send an effective message regarding the “interference of Hong Kong affairs by Beijing” as Hazlewood states.

The push towards democratic progress and universal suffrage in Hong Kong has felt a halt post-1997. In terms of the UK’s influence and involvement with the former colony during this period, Hazlewood explains: “During occupy, the UK government could have made a decisive intervention and pushed for Beijing to deliver on its promise of universal suffrage. In choosing not to, it was the latest in a string of failures.”

“In 2003, when the proposed changes to Article 23 were eventually dropped, the UK government did speak out, including the then PM Tony Blair – who referred to the dropped plans as evidence of “democracy in action”, and proof that One Country, Two Systems was operating as it should.”

Hazlewood stresses that having an international audience and exposing the actions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) within Hong Kong’s political framework can limit the extent to which democratic progress is hindered. He suggests: “Constant communication with the UK government through writing letters to and meeting with Ministers, Members of Parliament and Lords with an interest in Hong Kong is the way forward, to ensure that Hong Kong isn’t forgotten by the UK government and to press the FCO to put pressure on Beijing when necessary, both through diplomatic channels and openly in the media.”