Australia

Exclusive: The Australian protester joining calls for greater democracy in Hong Kong

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Among Hong Kong’s ever-growing protest movement is at least one Australian citizen, who has told SBS News he wants to uphold "Australian values” and fight for "a fair go".

Omar Dabbagh reports from Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is a city currently in uncharted territory. For the past 11 weeks, millions have united against the government, its police, as well as mainland China, in a mass movement demanding greater democracy.

That movement, sparked due to outrage over a now shelved extradition bill, includes at least one Australian citizen - a dual national - who has spoken exclusively to SBS News on the condition of anonymity.

SJ
SJ says he has been part of the protest movement in Hong Kong to "fight for a fair go".
Omar Dabbagh/SBS News

Thirty-year-old SJ*, who was born in Hong Kong and became an Australian citizen as a child, says he believes he is doing something that is not only right but is patriotic to both of his countries.

"What the protesters are asking for is not being extradited to China, having a fair legal system, having a fair political system,” he said from underneath his balaclava.

"It aligns with our Australian values about dignity, freedom, fair go."

SJ
SJ is an Australian-Hong Kong dual national.
SBS News/Omar Dabbagh

SJ studied a master's degree in Sydney and moved back to Hong Kong in 2012 where he says he became involved with activist groups.

"I got involved in the [2014] umbrella movement as well … I think the reason I got into this movement is because first thing’s first, the bill, the law this government’s trying to pass, is just wrong,” he said.

"Sending people overseas for extradition is fine, but you send them to China which has one of the worst human rights records and then you have a 99.9 per cent conviction rate, it’s putting everyone in jeopardy … it just makes everyone unsafe in Hong Kong.”

Protest violence

The movement has been at times shrouded in violence, from tense clashes with police to the chaos witnessed at Hong Kong airport last week. Beijing has accused some protesters of “near-terrorism” acts.

SJ says he has never participated in any violent clashes, and while he does not condone the behaviour, says he understands why.

"I’m not trying to beautify their actions, I’m not trying to say that everything they do is correct. But we also to have to consider the context why they did this,” he says.

I’m not trying to say that everything they do is correct. But we also to have to consider the context why they did this.

- SJ, Hong Kong Protester

“If you look at what the state is doing; you have tear gas firing at MTR [railway] stations, you have people shot in the eye, and then people allegedly being brutalised in police stations. I think it’s also important to look at the scale and extent of those actions.”

Call for Australian assistance

Many protesters have demanded greater international intervention, and for countries including the US and Britain to exert pressure on Beijing over how it has handled the crisis.

SJ says he would like to see the Australian government to follow suit, and asked for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to listen to the rallies that took place over the weekend across Australia’s capital cities in support of the Hong Kong movement.

SJ
SJ watches over Hong Kong's harbour.
SBS News/Omar Dabbagh

“If you look at what’s going on already in Melbourne, in Brisbane, you have pro-Hong Kong protesters, not just Hong Kong students, but local Australians speaking out for their cause.”

“[It’s] not just on Hong Kong’s scale, but on an international scale. International response, that’s pretty important.

Australian politician and Hong Kong-born Liberal MP Gladys Liu last week called for a peaceful end to the protests. 

"What's happening in Hong Kong is definitely painful to see and I feel if the Hong Kong people and Hong Kong government can sit down and have peaceful dialogue, and work it out as soon as possible, it will be in the best interest for all," she told SBS News. 

SJ admits realistically, Hong Kong's protests won’t necessarily force an immediate move away from mainland China, but he says they are making significant, albeit incremental, progress.

“It’ going to be a long term struggle,” he said.

“I want people to understand that the protesters are not just a violent bunch. It’s never like a big riot just to cause trouble. It’s about standing up for liberty, dignity and justice."

When Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam was asked by a journalist last week whether she had the power to entirely withdraw the extradition bill, she did not answer.

“We are still capable of resolving this crisis,” she told reporters.

“In response to the various demands we have heard, we have considered all factors.”

*Name has been changed

Would you like to share your story with SBS News? Email yourstory@sbs.com.au

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