The hundreds of protesters who gathered in front of the British Consulate-General claim the Chinese government is encroaching on their freedoms established under the ‘one country, two systems’ formula at the end of British colonial rule in 1984. Calling on the former sovereign to do something about it, they waved British flags as well as those of colonial Hong Kong, and sang patriotic British songs, including ‘God Save the Queen’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.
Britain had control over Hong Kong for decades after taking it from imperial China – a result of the Opium Wars, which reduced what was an economic powerhouse to destitution.
Since it’s highly unlikely that modern Britain would launch a colonial war the way it did so often in the 19th century, the protesters have other ideas on how Her Majesty can support them. For example, granting full British citizenship to holders of the British National (Overseas) passport – a special type of document that was granted to hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents. It allows visa-free travel to the UK, but only for six months, and does not include work privileges.
Some protesters were eager to pledge allegiance to Britain, chanting: “We are British and we will never surrender” and “Rule, Britannia!”
It’s not the first time the Hong Kong protesters have urged a foreign power to intervene on their behalf. Demonstrators have also been seen waving American flags, singing the US national anthem, and holding up meme-like photos of a rifle-toting Donald Trump standing on top of a ‘Trump’ tank, urging him to “liberate Hong Kong.”
The protests started in March over a now-scrapped extradition bill – which activists claimed was meant to undermine the city’s judiciary and to persecute dissidents – and have continued with ever-increasing demands from the protest leaders. Some demonstrations turned violent, leading to clashes with police, but Beijing has so far been reluctant to intervene with force.
Beijing accuses the US and UK of spurring the protests, and the demonstrators’ ostentatious gestures of loyalty to those very nations – like Sunday’s anthem-singing – hardly allay those perceptions.
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