Student activists held a vigil on Stocker Road to raise awareness about what they referred to as an outbreak of police brutality in Hong Kong.
The students, who were not allowed to protest on campus, referred to their actions as “showing the University and also ourselves, we are united and we are here.”
The vigil, which took place at 4:30pm on 22 October at the bottom of Stocker Road, showed students waving placards and chanting slogans against police brutality. They hung an array of educational documents listing out the situation in Hong Kong on the barriers separating the protest from Prince of Wales Road. Students were seen engaging with the protestors, asking questions about Hong Kong and the role of the police. However, Exeposé witnessed some students make obscene hand gestures toward the protestors, who replied with “we love you!” and heart signs.
Exeposé spoke to a group of masked protestors on their reasoning for holding a protest and vigil in Exeter. They told us “It’s for university people to recognize it has happened. We want to commemorate really what we call the terrorist attack three months ago.”
They explained further about what they referred to as a “terrorist attack”, letting Exeposé know how in a town called Yuen Long “on the 21st of July, there was a protest by pro Hong Kong supporters. And a group of what we called white shirts, gang members, came into the tube station where these protesters had been going home and started hitting them. They weren’t just protestors there though, they had women, children, the elderly. It turns out later with CCTV footage the police had known about this attack and let this happen. There’s a famous picture even, of a policeman with his hand on the shoulder of one of these white shirts. It was one of the first times we openly see the police selectively enforcing the law.”
We want to commemorate what we call the terrorist attackHong Kong demonstrator
They had petitions to sign, referring to how the international community could place pressure on world leaders. They emphasised the importance of getting through to governments, “especially the British government which has more of a responsibility than others in this case.” There were students of other nationalities also protesting in solidarity, including a Belgian national who told Exeposé, “This is a great example of democracy not happening and human rights not being applied to citizens. I think it would make me very hypocritical to travel all the way to a foreign university to learn about the law … then not stand for them in practice.”
This is the third event Hong Kong supporters had attempted to hold on campus. The first was a protest outside the Forum steps, and an unsuccessful flash mob in the Forum which did not go through due to protocols not being adhered to. When Exeposé queried the University on this protest taking place off campus, a spokesperson said: “The Hong Kong students chose a protest location just off the Streatham campus and our Estate Patrol team worked with the students to ensure it was a safe environment to demonstrate. We support freedom of speech and the right to protest within the law. Our top priority will always be the safety of our students, staff and visitors which is why we expect protestors to contact us in advance and work with our excellent Estate Patrol team to set up any demonstrations.” The majority of the students were masked and explained how they were trying to prevent any risks, as they could be arrested in Hong Kong for participating in these protests.
Democracy is not happening in Hong KongHong Kong demonstrator
When questioned on the risk, one protestor described his reasoning to participate as “because it is right, it is the right thing to do. Just because someone is oppressing you doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use our voice and our rights and our freedom to voice our beliefs. Equally, the counter protestors have a right to protest against us, but we are here to exhibit our right.” Another student described their motivation to protest as simply “because it’s home.”
Originally published in the 28/10/2019 issue of Exeposé.
Editor: Emma Hussain