I have for a long time known of the plight of Tibet and of the human rights abuses and lack of democracy in China, so when I heard of Xi Jinping's visit to London I was concerned. This concern turned to disgust when I found that the British government effectively intended to ignore the human rights issues and give Xi Jinping the red carpet treatment, apparently in return for trade and investment. I think that to sell out one's principles for money is appalling and all those who have done so (from the Queen to David Cameron) should be ashamed.
I was cycling back from court (I am a barrister) to my office through the City of London, when I became aware of groups of people waving Chinese flags, with banners welcoming the President. I stopped at various groups to ask what they were demonstrating about, but none of them seemed to want to talk to me; a few told me to mind my own business. It dawned on me that these seemed to be fake protesters. It is also made me realise the irony that these people were using the freedom of speech and right to protest that we have in Britain to praise and welcome a President who would never allow such things in China, let alone Tibet. So I thought I would politely ask them a question: given you are using the right to protest and freedom of speech that you are allowed in London, do you think such a right should be allowed for people back in China, or in Tibet? Mostly they ignored me, but one person mentioned Scotland (I think trying to compare it to Tibet!), to which I replied that I was in favour of Scottish independence and, in any case, the Scottish people had been given a vote on the matter, so did they think that Tibetans should be given a vote on independence too!
After this conversation, I tried to speak to a few more groups of protesters, but a young man in a suit and glasses (who can be seen on the right in the still of the video) ran around telling them not to talk to me. When I asked him why he was doing this, he said it was "his work", suggesting he was being paid/ordered to do it! After that I cycled back to my office and had no idea about the video online untilo a friend messaged me to say she'd seen it.
I don't have any especial reason to be concerned about human rights in China or Tibet, or Hong Kong, other than my general desire for freedom and human rights for all people of the world. I have loved reading the comments on the video and realising how many people from all around the world believe in the same thing.
The British government, however, seems to be sinking increasingly low in cosying up to any human rights abusing dictator or regime who they think they can get a bit of money or investment from (be it Saudi Arabia, China, Bahrain or many others) and I am genuinely ashamed of them for doing so. It was heartening to see many comments from Tibetans on the video who are pleased to know that not all British people agree with the actions of our government in welcoming leaders like Xi Jinping so warmly.
Finally, many British people do seem to agree that what is happening this week is wrong. As you may see in the video, a number of Londoners walked up to me during the talk with the protesters to say they agreed with me and that they too were disgusted with the actions of our government in welcoming Xi Jinping. Also, the reactions of my friends (and even complete strangers) to the video has been so positive.
I am proud that I stopped to talk to the 'protesters'. I wish good luck and solidarity to all those in Hong Kong- and indeed all those around the world- campaigning for freedom, human rights and democracy.
If I am honest, the nature of the CCP and its human rights abuses in China itself, Tibet, Hong Kong etc does not sit well with the fact that it is gaining strength both economically and politically. As we've seen from the British this week, some countries will try to gain advantage from that rising power and will ignore human rights to do so.
On the other hand, I am aware that things can change quickly and that we should never give up!