HONG KONG, SEPT 15 (DNA) – Pro-democracy protesters rallied outside Britain’s consulate in Hong Kong on Sunday, demanding London do more to protect its former colonial subjects and ramp up pressure on Beijing over sliding freedoms.The protest came as another large rally made its way through the city streets on Sunday afternoon in defiance of a ban by police, who warned the gathering was illegal.”We have a right to go to protests, to the streets, and we have to voice our demands to the government,” a secondary school student at the rally who gave his name as Alvin, told.The once-stable international hub has been convulsed by weeks of huge, sometimes violent rallies calling for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability.
The movement is the biggest challenge to China’s rule since the city was handed back by Britain in 1997 and shows no sign of ending, with local leaders and Beijing taking a hard line.
Under a deal signed with Britain ahead of the city’s 1997 handover to China, Hong Kong is allowed to keep its unique freedoms for 50 years.
Democracy activists accuse Beijing of reneging on those promises by tightening political control over the semi-autonomous territory and refusing calls for universal suffrage.
Many of the protest signs accused Britain of not doing enough to confront Beijing over its tightening grip on the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
“Sino-British Joint Declaration is VOID,” one read, referencing the 1984 agreement that paved the way for the city’s handover, a deal that Hong Kongers were given no say over.
“So far I’m quite disappointed by the fact that the UK hasn’t done anything to support us,” protester Alex Leung, a recent graduate, told.
Many called for Hong Kongers who want to leave the city to be granted citizenship in Britain or other Commonwealth nations.
Some Hong Kongers were given British National Overseas (BNO) passports before the handover, a document that allows holders easy travel to the UK but grants no working or residency rights.
“At least with the full citizenship they can protect Hong Kong people from the Chinese government,” protester Anthony Chau, who holds a BNO passport, told.
Earlier this week some 130 UK lawmakers signed a joint letter calling for Britain and Commonwealth countries to come up with an “insurance policy” for Hong Kongers to resettle overseas should they wish to.=DNA