Hundreds form human chain in protest of Nottingham’s ties with Chinese city

Around 300 Hongkongers joined hands in Nottingham last Saturday to renew calls for the city council to sever its twin town relationship with the Chinese city of Ningbo.

Citing China’s human rights track record, protesters displayed handheld placards which they said illustrated “evil deeds” and “atrocities” committed by the country’s ruling Chinese Communist Party, such as an allegedly ongoing genocide against Uyghurs in Xinjiang and a violent crackdown on 2019 Hong Kong pro-democracy protests.

The protest in Old Market Square came as China marked its National Day on the same Saturday, October 1 – a date chosen to coincide with the People’s Republic’s 73rd anniversary of establishment.

In a Facebook post, organiser and campaign group Nottingham Stand With Hong Kong described the day as “shameful” and wrote: “(It) is #NotMyNationalDay.”

Protesters could be heard chanting "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong" (Credit: Reagan Yip)
Protesters could be heard chanting “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” (Credit: Reagan Yip)

It has also staged a petition and gathered more than 470 signatures to call for a set-up of an independent advisory committee and a public inquiry, as part of a nationwide campaign demanding greater scrutiny into current twin town partnerships between UK cities and their Chinese counterparts.

Nottingham has been twinned with Ningbo since September 2005 and was awarded China’s “sister city of the year” in 2016.

A spokesperson for Nottingham Stand With Hong Kong said: “Currently, the UK has no laws to regulate and monitor ‘city diplomacy’ – the ways cities develop their interactions and links with other cities on a local level.

“Our protest and petition demand Parliament to provide guidance on these activities and further investigate whether the UK has been penetrated by China through these means.”

“The nationwide campaign would last for two to three months, and signatures collected would be submitted to parliament via MPs.”

Exceeding initial estimates of 101 attendees, the spokesperson, a recently graduated NTU student, added the group was “satisfied” with Saturday’s turnout.

Protest spokesperson waving flag reading "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times" (Credit: Reagan Yip)
Protest spokesperson waving flag reading “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” (Credit: Reagan Yip)

The group has started to campaign for an end of partnership with Ningbo since May and submitted over 1,300 signatures to Nottingham City Council in a rally in June, following the council’s decision to sever its links with two cities in Russia and Belarus “in solidarity with Ukraine”.

Nottingham City Council has not responded to Platform Magazine’s request for comment.

Pedestrians were seen stopping by to watch the protest, but many of them thought the protest should be more engaging to locals.

Phil, 53, from London, said: “I read (the news) so I understand what is happening in Hong Kong.

“It is the first time I have seen people actively demonstrating like this to increase awareness which is good and makes me feel lucky to have been around today to see this.”

He added: “Maybe for the people participating it feels good to do something, but for other people, they don’t really understand what’s going on.”

Spending quite a long time reading the placards, Neil, 58, from Leicester, said: “I am supportive of anybody who wants to say something if they feel there’s something incorrect.

“If you are marketing something here, it’s not hitting the consensus of Nottingham – I have dared to walk down to the centre (to read the placards) which seems to be alone with nobody else doing it.”

Pedestrians stopped by and read the placards (Credit: Reagan Yip)
Pedestrians stopped by and read the placards (Credit: Reagan Yip)

Nottingham has had strong ties with Ningbo, with the University of Nottingham establishing its Chinese campus in Ningbo in 2004 and Nottingham City Council opening a trade and investment office there, aside many other economic and academic collaborations.

Similar protests took place in more than 19 cities across the country, including Manchester and Newcastle.

More than 130,000 Hongkongers have been granted visas to the UK under a bespoke immigration route by the UK’s government after China tightened its grip on the former British colony with a controversial and sweeping National Security Law.

Lead Image: Reagan Yip

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