Hong Kong protesters took the streets of Newcastle last 13th October to raise awareness and show support for their region’s cause through a peaceful protest.
But the commotion came when a group of Chinese students and elders, appeared as part of the counter-rally.
The Hong Kong demonstrators, who intended to stay at Grey’s Monument, decided to walk around Newcastle City Centre. The demonstrators hoped to tire out the Chinese protesters and continue their peaceful rally.
In a recent interview with NSR News, the protesters, who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons, dived into the context and background of the Hong Kong conflict and on what happened during the rally.
Before the rally took place, the students organising the event contacted Newcastle’s City Council, asking for permission to protest peacefully at the Grey’s Monument.
The Council responded that there was no need to ask for permission, but assured them they would count with police officers for protection.
When demonstrators arrived at Monument, a security guard warned them about a group of Chinese protesters who were coming out from Eldon Square.
The protesters said: “someone from the Chinese protest was waiting for us at 1 p.m. and was constantly taking photos. Our faces were captured”. Hong Kong demonstrators had masks on, immediately after the Chinese took the pictures. Putting masks on is legal in the UK, but was considered illegal by the Hong Kong government.
Demonstrators were afraid of being recognised and harassed after the rally. An activist said: “They can post our photos online and I’m afraid we might have personal safety issues.”
Still, one of the students attending the demonstration claims some of the Chinese protesters tried taking his mask off.
On 25th October, some of the Hong Kong protesters met with Monument Council Jane Byrne to raise concerns about the police’s apparent indifference to the delicate situation.
Protesters said: “I think they did keep us safe when we were escaping from the Monument, but during the rally, the police didn’t do anything. We told the police about [being verbally and physically harassed], and the police approached the man and just tried to calm him down.”
One of the photographers accompanying the activists claimed: “five old Chinese men spat water and insulted.”
During the meeting with Ms Byrne, protesters stressed their feeling of unsafety, especially after recognising some of the men from Chinatown: “we dare not to enter Chinatown.”
It was clear that Hong Kong protesters felt that the police’s stance was not only “politically neutral”, but also insufficient for the safety of their physical and mental health.
“We should certainly make Newcastle a place where you feel protected, where people should feel supported.”
Jane Byrne offered to go to the next rally, to show her support for the cause: “We should certainly make Newcastle a place where you feel protected, where people should feel supported.”
Ms Byrne criticised these behaviours and expected the Universities to get involved.
The Hong Kong students and Ms Byrne agreed on organising another rally, and though it is uncertain as to when it will happen, Ms Byrne assured the activists that police officers will be briefed and better prepared for any type of situation.
Last modified: 29th October 2019