As world leaders congratulated China on its Oct. 1 National Day, protesters gathered in cities around the world to protest against the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s ongoing persecution of ethnic minorities and dissidents.
As the leaders of North Korea and Vietnam sent effusive letters of congratulation to Beijing to mark the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, protesters in London burned the Chinese flag, and threw maggots and dung on it outside the Chinese embassy, in protest at Beijing’s human rights record.
Hong Kongers, Tibetans and Uyghurs organized around 15 protests in U.K. cities to mark the 73rd National Day and “say no to the CCP,” as Russian president Vladimir Putin, Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel and Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni added their congratulations, according to state news agency Xinhua.
Chanting “China lied! People died! Shame on the CCP!”, the demonstrators marched from Piccadilly Circus to the Chinese embassy, carrying placards opposing totalitarian rule by the CCP.
The flames were put out after police arrived at the scene, after which protesters shone laser pointers at the embassy windows. No reaction was observed from the embassy, although some curtains were closed.
A protester surnamed Wong, who emigrated to the U.K. two months ago, said she had taken part in the protest with three generations of her family president.
“What this day teaches us is that we lost our freedoms because of the party,” Wong told RFA. “I don’t think this is a day to celebrate, but a day when an axis of evil was established.”
“The CCP hasn’t just harmed Hong Kong, but the whole country,” she said. “It is also exploiting freedoms around the world … for example abstaining from the U.N. vote on Russia.”
“To me, this is a horrible, evil regime.”
Wong said she once used to take her children on marches in Hong Kong, but since a crackdown on public dissent under the national security law, she has only been able to exercise that right in the U.K.
A protester surnamed Tse said he was carrying the colonial-era Hong Kong flag at the protest, to express nostalgia for the city’s lost freedoms.
“We want a Hong Kong with freedom, democracy and the rule of law like we had in the past,” Tse told RFA. “Hong Kong people should have the final say in [how to run] the place, not the country next door.”
“They have trampled on the promises made to the people of Hong Kong, the commitments made in the  Sino-British Joint Declaration and on its promise to the world,” he said. “Did they once ask the people of Hong Kong [what they thought?]”
A protester surnamed Leung said there is no longer any separation of powers in Hong Kong, since Beijing imposed the national security law on the city from July 1, 2020.
“Hong Kong used to have separation of powers, but now that has been denied us,” Leung said. “Everyone wants to get Hong Kong back to the one country, two systems status that it had before.”
Uyghur dissident Rahima Mahmut told the rally that, since the PRC was founded 73 years ago, Tibet and Xinjiang have been occupied, the Cultural Revolution brought political turmoil to China, and the CCP had bloodily suppressed dissent in the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.
Hong Kong’s freedoms and democracy have been destroyed, and Uyghurs have suffered genocide, including the mass incarceration of Uyghurs in their homes for more than a month without food as part of CCP leader Xi Jinping’s zero-COVID policy, she told the crowd.
But she said Uyghurs refused to remain silent, despite facing constant threats from agents of the Chinese state while in exile overseas.
In the United States, protesters gathered on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley on Oct. 1, waving the Tibetan flag, the colonial-era flag of Hong Kong and placing a tombstone effigy inscribed with the an estimated death toll under CCP rule since Mao Zedong proclaimed the People’s Republic of China from Tiananmen podium on Oct. 1, 1949.
The protest, which included the flags of the anti-communist South Vietnam, the Philippines and the Myanmar Democratic Movement, was timed to coincide with a visit to the school by Zhang Jianmin, the Chinese consul in San Francisco, to take part in the Berkeley China Summit symposium.
Chanting “Free Tibet!”, “Free Hong Kong!” and “Free the Uyghurs!”, the protesters also hung a placard which read “I know what you did in the Czech Republic” on a tree outside the building.
Chen Guodong, a member of the Asian-American political group Far East Youth Freedom League, said protesters had also brought along a portrait of late Czech official Jaroslav Kubera, who died of a heart attack in office shortly after receiving a threatening message from the Chinese embassy in the Czech Republic, according to his relatives.
“Mr Kubera passed away [in 2020], when he was about to visit Taiwan,” Chen said. “He was threatened by Zhang Jianmin and died shortly after [so we believe] Zhang Jianmin has blood on his hands.”
Kubera’s widow has said her husband was threatened by Zhang as he attended a banquet at the Chinese embassy three days before his death, and that letters from Zhang containing similar threats were also found among her husband’s personal effects after his death.
A member of the student group Hong Kong Affairs Association of Berkeley, who gave only the nickname Will, told the rally that anyone attending the Berkeley China Summit was “supporting a tyrannical regime with their silence.”
Tenzin Dorji, a member of the Northern California Tibetan Association, said he took part to protest the illegal occupation of Tibet by the CCP.
“The CCP has illegally occupied Tibet, and Tibetans are suffering a genocide under its brutal rule,” he said.
A protester from the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, who gave only the surname Ng, told the rally he was there to speak out for the Cantonese nativist movement, which is trying to resist the erasure of Cantonese language and culture under the CCP.
Protest motorcades also turned out in San Gabriel, Los Angeles, and Park City, Montreal, with signs that read “Destroy the CCP!”
The LA protest took a detour to take in the Chinese consulate in the city, where a group of protesters that included Tibetans and Uyghurs burned the Chinese flag.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken offered his congratulations to “the people of China” on National Day, Xinhua reported.
“As the United States works with the international community to tackle the great obstacles the world faces today, we welcome the cooperation of the People’s Republic of China in addressing global challenges in health, climate change, counternarcotics, and other areas where our interests intersect,” Blinken said.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.