Demonstrators gathered outside the Chinese embassy in London last evening in a show of solidarity for their counterparts protesting in Hong Kong.
An estimated 3,000 people turned up on the night, organisers say.
Hong Kong protesters have quickly become famous for their politeness, and the London event stayed true to form. Protesters obediently confined themselves to the pavement across the road from the embassy, and even cheered the Met. officers when they blocked off the road to traffic. When we arrived for the event we were firmly told by stewards to move a bit further forward, so that they could keep a clear thoroughfare on the pavement for pedestrians.
Daniel Chan, a Hong Kong student studying at the University of Warwick, was one of the speakers who addressed the crowd. He ended his speech by thanking his mum and dad, and promising to work hard. So far, so Hong Kong.
Many protesters were clearly worried about what they saw as parallels to the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989, when similar movements for democracy in Beijing were suppressed in brutal fashion by the Chinese government.
American journalist Dr Jonathan Mirsky, who was one of several speakers addressing the protest, is one who is particularly concerned. He was at Tiananmen in 1989, and got his arm broken by PLA soldiers. Speaking to us after his speech, he told us that he saw “complete parallels” between the situations of 1989 and the Hong Kong protests happening now. Like 1989, the movement is largely student-driven.
“You have to feel young to do it.”
The Chinese embassy across the road looks all but deserted, save for one solitary window lit-up in the corner on the top floor. Does Mirsky think the embassy is watching?
“Oh yeah, they’re definitely watching.”
The crowd mostly consisted of young Hong Kong students studying in the UK. Rachel Chan, a 22-year-old Psychology student, came down from Sheffield University for the day.
“I want real democracy in Hong Kong, I don’t want Hong Kong to be ruled.
“We want to protect our students in Hong Kong. They’re unarmed and police shouldn’t treat them like this.”
The overwhelming feeling was one of showing friends and family back home in Hong Kong that they are not alone.
30-year-old Jessie Kwok, who works in finance, has lived in London for 13 years. Her family and friends are actively protesting back in Hong Kong. She sees these protests as a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity.
“Our voice will never be heard if we don’t do something now. I just don’t want it to end up like 1989.
“Chances like this only come round once every 25 years.”