612 rally in London – fighting for Hong Kong
It’s been nearly a year since I’ve been in London, and this weekend gave me a good excuse to go into town. The purpose of the trip was anything but sightseeing. I went to attend the 612 Rally.
THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE IN HONG KONG
Some of you may have read my posts from a couple of years ago about the political situation in Hong Kong.
TLDR : In 2019, the Hong Kong government tried to push through an extradition bill to extradite fugitives to China. On 12th June thousands of protestors gathered outside the legislative council when the bill was due for a second reading. The police fired over 240 rounds of tear gas and 19 rounds of rubber bullets at the unarmed protesters. This sparked a rally involving 2m people, and demands for freedom and democracy, as expected for one of the most advanced cities in the world.
Since then, the voices of dissent have gradually lessened. Not because things have improved or people have given up. The government rules by fear. People are silenced by a newly passed National Security law that applies to everyone in this universe, regardless of nationality and location.
Protest and rally are a thing of the past in Hong Kong. In addition to 4th June (the Tiananmen Massacre), 12th June has become another heart-wrenching date for many in Hong Kong. On the second anniversary of this date, 52 rallies were held in different cities around the world. Ten of these rallies were held in the UK, and my trip to London was to attend one of these 612 rally.
THE LONDON 612 RALLY
The London rally started from Marble Arch. It was already packed with a lot of people when I arrived at noon. Black t-shirt has become the default dress code for past rallies, and the yellow umbrella is representative of the democratic movement in Hong Kong over the years.
These black flags which say Free Hong Kong, Revolution Now is the slogan used in the movements over the years. They have all but disappeared in Hong Kong now. One could be arrested under the national security law for subversion for even chanting the slogan. For all I know, the thousands of people who took part in the rallies around the world could all be arrested under the national security law, and I could be arrested for writing this article.
We marched from Marble Arch, down Oxford Street, one of the, if not the busiest shopping area in the UK. Although it was a Saturday afternoon, it was a lot quieter than I had ever known. London was still recovering from Covid.
We turned down Regent Street, marching through the busiest parts of central London. There were lots of traffic lights here and we had to pause frequently. I thought this particular pause outside this shop was very fitting for our cause today.
The 612 rally continued towards Picadilly Circus and soho, the heart of London
And finally arrived at Trafalgar Square where our rally would end with some guest speakers. I left after a little while as it was nearly 4pm and we hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. Plus my husband had gout that day, his foot was killing him but he still insisted on coming out.
One doesn’t go to London without dropping by Chinatown for some decent Chinese food, particularly after a year’s lockdown. Going to the rally was a great opportunity to catch up with friends and dinner afterwards. It nearly felt like the old times, except the restaurant was quite empty as everyone opted to sit outside, leaving just a handful of diners inside. That suited us fine as we had half the restaurant to ourselves!
WHY THE HONG KONG PEOPLE OPPOSED TO THE EXTRADITION BILL
The main reason the people of Hong Kong were so worried about the extradition bill in 2019 was the lack of transparency, and political interference in the China legal system. Plus, the bill if passed as law would have given China a valid reason to arrest or detain people as they please, instead of kidnapping them. This was clearly demonstrated in Simon Cheng’s case. This is Simon yesterday, conducting an interview after the rally.
Simon Cheng used to work for the British Consulate General in Hong Kong as a trade officer. He vanished for 15 days during a day return business trip to China in August 2019. When he was finally released back to Hong Kong, he said he was detained by the China’s National Security Police, tortured during that period and forced to sign a confession for soliciting prostitution before being released. His interview with BBC about his ordeal can be found here. He has now been granted political asylum in UK.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Over ten thousand people have been arrested in the past few years, and 2608 prosecuted. Those prosecuted include leading barristers, activists, university lecturers, legislative councillors, doctors, reporters, and countless normal citizens. Many are still “stuck” in the legal system without bail and no set court date. Or worse case they could be in China’s ‘legal system’ somewhere… and vanish forever.