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“It looks so much like Hong Kong”: the territory’s solidarity with the Chinese uprising | China

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Jack*, a Hong Konger, used to have a gloomy view of mainland Chinese, but protests against anti-Covid restrictions that exploded across China last weekend have changed his view.

“Before, I thought it was mostly arrogant, nationalistic people who only cared about saving ‘one China’ and [Communist] party, and bragging about China’s superiority,” said the 35-year-old IT professional, who wouldn’t give his real name for fear of repercussions from Beijing.

“But in these protests, it’s clear that they weren’t just unhappy with the policies of Covid, but with the regime and the whole political system,” he said. “When I saw the countless ‘tank men’ who bravely stood in front of police vehicles and called for democracy and freedom, it really touched me.”

Jack, who took part in the 2019 anti-government protests in Hong Kong and has since moved to the UK, added: “Now I see we have a common language with them – their bravery has earned my respect and I feel that there is hope.

Outraged by a deadly fire in the far western region of Xinjiang widely blamed on the lockdowns, the emotions of people who have been under strict Covid restrictions for nearly three years have boiled over. But before the protests that began on Friday and spread like wildfire over the weekend, no one expected mainland Chinese citizens – who have lived under the Communist Party for seven decades and who experienced the brutal repression of the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen in 1989 – still take the streets for granted.

Many Hong Kongers say the protests gave them a sense of deja vu – slogans heard on the streets of Shanghai, Beijing and other cities echoed political demands in Hong Kong during the wave of anti-government protests of 2019-2020. Chinese protesters went beyond calling for an end to shutdowns – students on college campuses demanded democracy and the rule of law and people on the streets chanted for the removal of the Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping. Many held up blank sheets of white A4 paper, first used during Hong Kong protests in 2020 to avoid slogans banned under the city’s national security law – which was imposed after massive protests and sometimes violent the previous year.

Jack said he could relate to mainland Chinese, as he also felt the brunt of an increasingly totalitarian regime that suppressed many civil liberties under national security law as well as under Covid restrictions on the territory, which followed China’s “dynamic zero”. Politics.

Protests in Hong Kong, which once boasted of its robust civil liberties, have largely died down under the new law and dozens of arrests. But the wave of Chinese protests has prompted a number of protesters to risk breaking Covid laws and regulations to express their solidarity.

On Monday, dozens of people gathered in the prestigious Central business district. This time the protesters echoed their Chinese counterparts by carrying blank sheets of paper. Some held flowers and candles as police registered their identities. About 100 others staged a rally at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, brandishing white papers and chanting in Mandarin Chinese the slogans from a banner held by a single protester at Beijing’s Sitong Bridge in October: “We want a reform, not a cultural policy”. Revolution. We want to be citizens, not slaves. At the separate Hong Kong University, several mainland students also staged a silent protest, and the university called the police who took their personal details.

While many Hong Kongers sympathize with mainland protesters, they are equally pessimistic about the outcome of the crackdown that has greeted their own protests with pro-democracy protesters, politicians and writers arrested and media outlets shut down. independents and non-governmental organizations. They expect protests on the mainland to lead to mass arrests.

“It feels so much like Hong Kong in 2019,” said construction worker Freeman Yim. “The regime is so powerful – it has it all: technology, money, military, law and power.

“People throw eggs against the wall. I feel so sad, I fear that many innocent people and their families will suffer,” he said. “In Hong Kong, three years later, no one dares to talk about these [democratic values] more. You leave if you can and if you can’t, you’re drunk.

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theguardian

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