Self-exiled Hong Kong pro-democracy figures and overseas activist groups have waved pro-independence banners and set fire to Chinese flags, as they staged protests worldwide on the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Hongkongers in Taiwan, Britain, the US and Australia organised demonstrations and rallies on October 1, when China celebrated its 1949 founding. They accused the Chinese authorities of violating human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang and called for “resistance” against what they deemed as Chinese Communist Party (CCP) oppression.

Taiwan

In Taiwan, a number of pro-democracy groups staged a rally in Taipei on Friday night with a theme “resist China” and “team up to back human rights.” Among the organisers were the Hong Kong Outlanders, founded by Hongkongers based in the island nation.

Flags bearing the “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” slogan were spotted at the scene. The eight-word mantra is banned in Hong Kong after the government said it carried pro-independence connotations, while the city’s High Court affirmed in July that it was capable of carrying the meaning of separating Hong Kong from China.

Some participants also brought Hong Kong independence flags and the snow lion flag, a symbol of the Tibetan independence movement.

The groups urged Taiwanese people to block what they saw as a permeation of Chinese capital and to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. They also called on the Taiwanese Legislative Yuan to review the Act Governing Relations with Hong Kong and Macau, as well as pass a bill to require the Executive Yuan to pen an annual report on the human rights conditions in Hong Kong.

“In democratic Taiwan, we can do what we want freely, say what we want to say,” the Hong Kong Outlanders wrote on Facebook. “We want the world to know that, even under China’s severe oppression, we still persistently and unitedly withstand China’s power, and uphold human rights and democratic values.”

Participants were seen presenting a portrait of Chinese leader Xi Jinping upside down, and later drawing a cross and profanity on the photo. They also upturned the Chinese national flag. Taipei City councillors Lin Ying-meng, Sabrina Lim and Meredith Huang attended the rally on Jinan Road.

Britain

Crowds gathered at Piccadilly Circus in London on Friday, in solidarity with the campaign for democracy for Hongkongers, Uyghurs and Tibetans. Some attendees wore a yellow face mask and held yellow umbrellas, a colour affiliated with Hong Kong’s democracy movements in 2014 and 2019.

Similar to other overseas rallies, “Liberate Hong Kong” flags were seen fluttering in the wind, together with Hong Kong British colonial flags and the Tibetan flag. The national flag of China was destroyed in flames, while a headshot of Xi – which a huge “X” on his face – was also torched.

Prominent activist and ex-legislator Nathan Law, who attended the rally soon after returning from New York, said October 1 was a “symbolic date” for Hongkongers abroad to gather and remind each other to “fight against China’s infringement of democracy and freedom.”

He said Hongkongers must strive to build a sense of identity and cohesion, after moving overseas: “Maintaining Hong Kong’s local culture is very important… we need to let the second and third generations of [Hong Kong immigrants] know Cantonese and Hong Kong’s history of resistance.”

United States

Hong Kong self-exiled activist Baggio Leung, who fled the city to seek asylum in the US, took part in a protest outside the Chinese embassy in Washington DC on Friday. The former leader of localist group Youngspiration, now a member of the Hong Kong Liberation Coalition supporting Hongkongers living in exile in the US, set fire to the Chinese national flag and the CCP flag to voice opposition.

The coalition described October 1 as a “day of mourning” for Hongkongers, citing the Lamma Island ferry collision in 2012 that killed 39 people and a secondary student protester who was injured by a police live round during the National Day protest in 2019.

“Perhaps the political environment in Hong Kong will make it more and more difficult to organise protest activities, but other Hongkongers must continue to pass on the truth, until the day our revolution succeeds,” the coalition wrote on Facebook.

Similar scenes of flag burning were spotted in San Francisco, when a group of Hongkongers protested outside the Chinese embassy in the Californian city. They also set fire to a portrait of Chinese leader Xi, Stand News reported.

Australia

Over in Australia, Hong Kong fugitive activist Ted Hui attended rallies organised by Hongkongers in Adelaide to protest against what they saw as the suppression of human rights by the Chinese Communist Party.

Hong Kong self-exiled activist Ted Hui attends a rally outside the Adelaide Central Plaza in Australia on October 1, 2021. Photo: Ted Hui, via Facebook.

One of the demonstrations was held outside the Adelaide Central Plaza, where protesters brought yellow umbrellas and presented a banner that read “Back off China. Australia stands with Hong Kong.” They also rallied against alleged human rights violations of the Uyghurs.

Hui called on Australians to question those celebrating China National Day and ask why they were not “ashamed” of Beijing’s moves to “trample” human rights.

“As long as there are political prisoners in Hong Kong who are convicted because of their speech, and as Uyghurs continue to face genocide, October 1 will only be a day for us to complain about the Chinese Communist Party.”

The former lawmaker fled Hong Kong last December while on court bail, and eventually settled in capital city of the state of South Australia in March to live in exile. The ex-Democratic Party member was facing several criminal cases in Hong Kong, some were linked to the 2019 protests.

Acts such as burning flags, displaying pro-independence symbols or chanting the “liberate Hong Kong” slogan are considered illegal in Hong Kong.

In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.

Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.