Hongkongers gathered in Nottingham city centre on Sunday, October 23 to show solidarity with a protester beaten up at the Chinese consulate in Manchester.

Hundreds of Hongkongers called on Nottingham to sever ties with a sister city in China following the Manchester Chinese consulate beating.

Campaigners from Nottingham Stands With Hong Kong (NSWHK) cited China’s human rights record to reiterate calls for Nottingham City Council to end its partnership with Ningbo, China at a protest in Old Market Square.

The two-hour event on Sunday, October 23 also saw protesters brave the rain to sing their protest anthems and chant slogans such as “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” before leaving at 1pm.

It comes after a pro-Hong Kong rally outside the Chinese consulate in Manchester descended into violence a week ago, in which Greater Manchester Police said a man was “dragged into consulate grounds and assaulted” by unidentified men.

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Pete Radcliff, a 71-year-old Labour activist in Nottingham, addressed the crowd and said: “(This is) a frightening reminder of how brutal the Chinese Communist Party Regime is.

“We should not be cuddling up to people, and Ningbo is particularly one of these repressive cities where the bookstore owner was put on trial and sent to prison – something that started all these on.”

The Chinese consulate has denied any wrongdoing and claimed “deeply offensive imagery and slogans” contrary to UK laws were displayed.

Pete Radcliff said the University of Nottingham should allow its campus in Ningbo to be used for democracy and freedom, instead of “a place for CCP to stifle dissent”.

Nottingham has been twinned with Ningbo since 2005 following the establishment of the University of Nottingham’s Ningbo campus.

In 2015, a Hong Kong bookseller who sold sensitive titles of China’s high-rank politicians was kidnapped to Ningbo while on holiday in Thailand.

He was then sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment for “illegally providing intelligence” to overseas parties by the Ningbo Intermediate People’s Court in 2020.

“They should be held accountable and not to go scot-free like in Hong Kong.”
-Tony Tung, Hong Kong activist

Tony Tung, a 24-year-old core member of NSWHK, said: “The incident is a shock (to me) – I think those Chinese officials are thugs that are unable to control themselves.

“They should be held accountable and not to go scot-free like in Hong Kong.”

The group as well collected signatures for a nationwide petition demanding closer scrutiny of UK cities’ twinning arrangements.

Mr Tung, a recent Nottingham Trent University graduate, added: “We want to stop China being funded through its lucrative partnership with Nottingham.”

Pedestrians were seen to sign the petition after volunteers approached them and explained details of the protest.

Over 130,000 Hongkongers have now immigrated to the UK under a bespoke visa scheme, with Nottingham seeing the most arrivals in East Midlands.

To them, the beating also presented heightened fears for safety.

“Such a beating in broad daylight will make Hongkongers realise they are not safe even in the UK.”
– Dennis Hui, protester

Dennis Hui, a 39-year-old protester who now resides in Nottingham, said: “The incident is outrageous and disturbing – it happened on soil where British police are not allowed to enter.

“Such a beating in broad daylight will make Hongkongers realise they are not safe even in the UK.”

Mr Hui arrived in the UK under the bespoke visa scheme a year ago, and is now on an electrical engineering course.

In a statement, city council’s leader Councillor David Mellen said: “We support people’s right to peaceful protest.

“Nottingham City Council had committed to reviewing all its twinning arrangements and international links, taking into account the principles in relation to diversity, inclusion and human rights.”

Similar protests took place in 11 cities across the country on the same day, including London, Liverpool, and Birmingham.