Society & Politics

Rallying International Resonance: Hong Kong-Catalonia Solidarity Assembly

Protesters gathered at Central tonight, waving Catalonia flags to rally in support of freedom and democracy in Catalonia, after some of Catalan leaders, such as former foreign minister Raül Romeva was put behind bars for calling for independence. 

Catalonia is a semi-autonomous region in the north-east of Spain. The region has about 7.5 million people, with their own flag, language, parliament and anthem. Region stirred up constitutional crisis when the people demanded independence from Spain.

The Hong Kong-Catalonia Solidarity Assembly started at 7 pm in Chater Garden tonight. Videos of police brutality and interviews of Catalan protesters are shown in the event. People brought along Catalonia flags with different banners and signs. 

The organizing committee announced three demands, which include calling for peaceful response to protests from Spanish government, condemning brutal force by Spanish police against protesters and quelling any imprisonment for one’s political beliefs.

There were heated debates online about joining the Assembly, fearing such action would jeopardize the passing of  Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and weaken America's support to the city. It's because the US is supporting Spain’s government in the Catalonia independence dispute. On the other hand, people think that supporting solidarity does not equal to support independence on the popular online forum LIHKG. 

Waving the yellow-red-striped flag is Mr. Chan, 23, who was wearing a mask in the rally is ignoring the mask ban. He believes that supporting Catalonia is showing sympathy as the Catalan protesters are being ripped off of their freedom and democracy, same as what has happened in Hong Kong. 

Mr. Chan, aged 23, wearing a FC Barcelona jersey while holding a flag of the club, as it is a Catalonia-based football club. He thinks that wearing it shows support to Catalonia and what they suffered.

"When we asked for international communities to stand with us, we also have the responsibilities to rally support for those people being oppressed," said the masked student. "Prison is not a solution."

A woman from Australia who was identified as Lisa, aged 45, showed her support to the two cities as an outsider. "I'm showing my support and respect to what's happening to Catalonia and the people from Hong Kong," said Lisa.

Catalonia has seen a week of protests following last Monday's sentencing by Spain's Supreme Court of nine civil and political pro-independence leaders to prison terms of up to 13 years. Protesters have been causing disruptions and students have been boycotting classes.

Among the crowd is a native Catalan, Laia, aged 31. She is thankful for being able to voice support even when she is not in her homeland. 

Laia, a native Catalan, was dressed in an Estelada (Catalan separatist flag) to show support for her homeland. She wishes to be with her people back in Catalonia fighting together.

A tearful Laia said, "There is a mixed feeling between sad and angry. Our city has been destroyed and the police are hitting people for no reason."

Police deployed teargas, rubber and foam bullets and water cannons at protesters, resulting in at least 500 injuries and more than 100 arrested. Similar tactics have been used in the Hong Kong protests. 

The recent tactics of protests in Catalonia are said to be inspired by Hong Kong, from blocking airports to using encrypted messaging apps like Telegram. Shortly after Spain's Court sentenced the nine Catalan leaders to prison, Catalan received anonymous messages from the separatist organisation, Democratic Tsunami, asking them to "paralyse"  Barcelona’s El Prat airport. 

The Catalans even use the yellow helmets in protests and called itself "Cascos grocs", which means "yellow helmet" in English. Setting roadblocks and flash mob demonstrations are alleged tributes paid to Hong Kong. 

"We are fighting a suppressive government," said Laia.

The letter of no objection has been issued by the police for the Hong Kong assembly. The organizing committee announced that about 3000 people participated. Simultaneously, an assembly took place in Catalonia in support of Hong Kong. 

《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) is an English news publication produced by international journalism students at Hong Kong Baptist University. It started as a printed magazine in 1969. Today, TYR is produced across different platforms.

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