From London To Sydney, Protesters Stood In Solidarity With Hong Kong This Weekend
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
For the 11th weekend in a row, protesters filled the streets of Hong Kong. They marched through pouring rain and in defiance of police orders to continue to demand democratic reforms. In a moment, we're going to hear from the former lead American diplomat in Hong Kong about the U.S. response. But first, we're going to take a look at the ripples the protests have sent around the world.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Over the weekend, in cities from London to Sydney, protesters came out in solidarity with the Hong Kong activists. They faced off against counter demonstrations by patriotic mainland Chinese. These dueling protests highlight a clash of values and perceptions between mainly mainlanders and most of the West. NPR's Frank Langfitt reports from London.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Singing in foreign language).
FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: On Saturday afternoon, London's Trafalgar Square felt a little like Tiananmen Square. Hundreds of mainlanders waved red Chinese flags and sang the national anthem. The protesters, mostly young, said they came to support the Hong Kong police and deplore recent violence by the demonstrators, including the beating of a mainland journalist last week at Hong Kong's airport. Jessie (ph), a mainlander, works in finance here in London.
JESSIE: There's no way they should beat a guy, no matter who is it - right? - no matter what political view he has. That's unacceptable. That's not democracy. That's not even human rights. So I feel like what they're fighting for, they're actually ruining it.
LANGFITT: Protesters in Hong Kong quickly apologized and staged a massive peaceful protest on Sunday. Mainlanders here said they also oppose the protesters in Hong Kong because they think they want independence from China. Jessie, who declined to give her full name for fear of repercussions from Hong Kong protesters, is against independence and pointed to a protester here in London waving a Hong Kong British colonial flag and Hong Kong demonstrators who shouted at her.
JESSIE: They're like, go back to China - like, we're Hong Kong; we're not China. That's what they basically told me to my face. To be honest - I mean, Hong Kong has been colonized by the U.K. - right? - for a hundred years. I understand that they - their mentality is different than what we think from maybe - from a mainland perspective.
LANGFITT: Standing on the other side of the police line in London were people like Eric Chan (ph), who grew up in Hong Kong and works here as an actuary. I asked him...
Are you for Hong Kong independence?
ERIC CHAN: No, I don't think this is what we are for. What we want is what they have - what China's government has promised to us 22 years ago, which is universal free suffrage, free election for everyone.
LANGFITT: Chan said painting demonstrators as separatists is a red herring, adding that mainland protesters here were having it both ways, using Western freedoms to promote the agenda of an authoritarian regime, the Chinese Communist Party.
CHAN: You can see the irony here. They enjoy their freedom of speech or freedom of gathering here in London. But how come they don't do anything like that back in Beijing, back in Tiananmen Square?
LANGFITT: Chan said he thought many mainland protesters were heavily influenced by what they saw on Chinese state media, which has shown the violence of the Hong Kong protesters but not the more excessive police violence that preceded and provoked it.
Frank Langfitt, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.