By Frankie Rufolo, Member & Activist
27th July 2020
Recently, Frankie Rufolo commented on Hong Kong during a livestream and was invited to write a blog and make a case for the protests and to re-unify Britain and Hong Kong. These are Frankie’s views and do not necessarily reflect the view of the party.
I remember sitting in a student bar, chatting to a few friends of mine from immigrant backgrounds, when I asked them what they would miss the most about the United Kingdom if they had to leave. A Polish girl, who had moved to England when she was eight, said “beans on toast and processed food generally.” Her boyfriend, a Swedish student, said “cheap alcohol.” My girlfriend at the time, a student from mainland China, simply said “the freedom.”
She told me in more detail the oppression the Chinese people have to endure under the regime in Beijing. Her neighbour had been arrested simply for complaining about the quality of food in the hospital, Chinese artists are banned from depicting or writing about kissing below the neck or anything beyond that and a politician from her area who challenged the president for power ended up in prison. From research and just following current affairs programs, you can quickly find out that China’s human rights record has gone from bad to worse under the current president-for-life Xi Jinping. The country executes more people – largely for drug offences – than the rest of the world combined, is persecuting religious and ethnic minorities, forcing the Uyghur Muslims into concentration camps and bans anything non-heterosexual from the media whilst allowing electric-shock gay conversion therapy to be practiced. This is the regime the people of Hong Kong are fighting.
Hong Kong became part of the British Empire after the Opium Wars, agreeing to return the islands to China after a hundred years. By the time this happened in 1997, China was a Communist country but the one country, two systems arrangement was made so that Hong Kong would be largely self-governing and more democratic. However, Douglas Murray’s think-tank, The Henry Jackson Society, has documented the far more gradual erosion of human rights in Hong Kong causing international concern. In 2019, the situation reached breaking point with a proposed extradition bill which would have given the government in Beijing the power to force Hong Kongers to face trial on the Chinese mainland. The people of the island saw this as an attack on the one country two systems arrangement and came out for huge rallies against the legislation. As a result, the protesters have faced a backlash from fanatical Communists in white shirts that turn red with heroes’ blood and shocking police brutality: rubber bullets fired into crowds have seriously wounded demonstrators and women in the Hong Kong freedom movement have been sexually assaulted by officers in riot gear, even subjected to humiliating strip-searches in the street. The fight went on with notable battles taking place on the public transport system and on university campuses. The uprising became known as “The White Revolution.” Now China has passed a National Security Bill in a further crackdown on dissenters, banning any demand for independence or further autonomy. Even seemingly small things such as mocking the Chinese national anthem have been criminalised in Hong Kong.
Last year, after the uprisings on the island started, there were demonstrations in solidarity all over the UK as well. The University of Exeter was where one such demo took place. Although I didn’t see what happened myself, I heard from people who were there that communist mainland Chinese students turned up, spat in the Hong Kongers’ faces and started a massive fight. The local media reported on the clashes between the two groups and there were similar reports on campuses up and down the country. The For Britain Movement is not against foreign students who generally obey the law, spend lots of money in this country and take their skills back home where they’re needed once they’ve finished studying, but it was alleged that the mainland Chinese students, who physically attacked the young Hong Kongers fighting for democracy, were not punished by the universities too scared of losing money. Obviously not all mainland Chinese are bad people: some are dissidents, just not to the same extent as their island neighbours and some are just victims of the regime. I remember talking to another girl from the mainland. She told me she didn’t like the Hong Kongers and when I asked why, she just laughed and said she didn’t know. However, law and order must apply to everyone.
In the lead-up to and the aftermath of the local by-election in Heavitree and Whipton, I joined the Hong Kongers demonstrating and leafleting in Exeter’s city centre. They all spoke perfect English, talked very bluntly about their politicians and were willing to hear out other people’s views on the situation, all whilst having good banter. They didn’t object to me flying the British flag in a show of solidarity between two islands with a historic connection or holding up the cross of St George with some slogans hastily written on in permanent marker. The student activists also debated amongst themselves whether or not to fly the old colonial flag of Hong Kong – with the Union Jack enmeshed – or the current flag with a stylised orchid – which some saw as being imposed on the island by China. Our flag, the old flag and American flags have been seen at many of the protests both in Hong Kong and abroad.
There is a movement to re-unify the island with the United Kingdom. A woman called Alice Lai currently leads the campaign and a minor party which pre-dates the recent uprisings. I think The For Britain Movement should not only make it clear that we support the wider protests, but we should be open to the idea of Hong Kong becoming British again. Not all the protesters want this or even independence, as they made it very clear they were defending the one-country two-systems arrangement, but it is likely that anti-China sentiment has steadily risen. When mainland China has covered up the coronavirus outbreak, allowing the disease to spread round the world, For Britain and the Hong Kongers would be uniting against a common foe. An autocratic communist state becoming the leading global superpower can only be a bad thing, so any kind of break-away for Hong Kong would be a big blow to the dictatorship. True, re-unification would make it easier for millions of people to immigrate here like the government’s current proposals, but if it were a British territory free from Beijing, there would be less incentive for them to do so and the UK would benefit from the island’s successful economy. We needn’t worry about Westminster becoming saturated with far-Eastern politics either – the overseas territories Britain currently has such as Gibraltar and the Falklands are largely self-governing with their own political parties. At the very least, an independent Hong Kong should be welcomed into the Commonwealth. These people are fighting this country’s enemy, they share our values of democracy, capitalism and free speech and many of them feel British, love our flag and enjoy many aspects of our culture. When Jinping said he wanted “a united EU,” these protesters could be considered the Han Brexiteers. It’s time to stand up in solidarity with our fellow dissidents and patriots taking the fight to the far-left.