Struggles against police violence from Hong Kong to Britain

A Chinese pro-democracy activist WF who was active in the Hong Jong democracy movement calls for all-out resistance to the Tories’ Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill.

The Tory Bill, if passed, would impose severe restrictions on the right to protest in the UK. Particularly concerning is Clause 59, which would criminalise a protest which causes or risks causing ‘serious distress, annoyance, inconvenience, or loss of amenity’, with a sentence of up to ten years in prison. The wording is, of course, vague and open to broad interpretation.

What is the purpose of a protest, if not to make the voice of the people heard? A protest that causes no disturbance to the status quo, and which does not threaten the power of the regime, is toothless and not likely to be taken seriously.

For context, the charge of rioting in Hong Kong under the Public Order Ordinance carries a maximum prison sentence of ten years.

After the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and the subsequent government repression and crackdown on political freedoms and civil rights, many Hongkongers have fled to the UK as political asylum-seekers or as emigrants under the BNO scheme.

Here, we see an attempt by the British ruling class to impose a piece of legislation on the people that would limit their democratic freedoms and rights in order to suppress political opposition. As it is with the Chinese Communist Party and the National Security Law, so is it with the illiberal Conservative Government and their Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill.

Some would argue that these two examples are not comparable. After all, the Chinese Communist Party presides over an authoritarian one-party dictatorship, whereas the Conservative Party operates within a democratic system with free elections and constitutional checks and balances. This is true: the Conservative Party is not the CCP, nor is their Police Bill as draconian as the National Security Law.

However, as activists and citizens fighting to defend democracy and freedom of expression, which we have seen abolished wholesale in Hong Kong, we cannot turn a blind eye to any encroachment on political or civil rights anywhere in the world. The Police Bill must be condemned as a step towards authoritarianism that would suffocate political freedoms in the UK as they have been in Hong Kong.

As a matter of political strategy, should we refrain from criticising the UK government when it has spoken out in support of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and condemned the CCP’s attack on Hong Kong’s autonomy, as well as offering Hongkongers a refuge by way of their BNO scheme?

The logic of ‘the enemy of the enemy is my friend’ is insidious and toxic. It is true that Western governments and leaders, most notably Donald Trump and the Republican Party, have fiercely criticised the CCP. But it is also true that they are enemies of democratic values and basic human decency. Donald Trump has undermined the foundations of American democracy by baselessly disputing the legitimacy of the US Presidential Elections, resulting in the Capitol Riot, and has also defended police brutality during the BLM protests.

Through the Police Bill, Boris Johnson would readily suppress the freedom of protest in the UK even while he condemns the political system and human rights abuses of China. At any rate, it seems unlikely that the West will do much on behalf of Hongkongers beyond strongly-worded letters of protest and economic sanctions, which have limited effect and would harm ordinary Hongkongers as much as they would hurt the regime.

Therefore, if Hongkongers believe that we are indeed fighting for freedom and democracy, we must condemn the Police Bill as a piece of legislation that would attack the values we claim to cherish and uphold.

Boris Johnson and the Orbanisation of Britain

Joseph Healy warns of the Prime Ministers dangerous friends

In January of 2020, Viktor Orban, Prime Minister and strongman of Hungary, called Boris Johnson, “one of the bravest politicians in Europe”. He congratulated the Tory Party on winning the general election the previous month despite “the whole world” being against Johnson.

Such fulsome praise from a deeply authoritarian and anti-democratic leader is unusual but it wasn’t the first time that Johnson’s and Orban’s paths had crossed. Both of them emerged from the Steve Bannon stable and both of them were committed to populism, the ending of the European Union and the overthrow of liberal democracy. Bannon, Trump’s previous ideological guru and campaign director in the US election of 2016 had long had the aim of cultivating a stable of European populists who would further his far right ideas throughout the continent and Brexit was one of his favourite projects. In his comments last year, Orban also praised Brexit and marked it out as: “a fantastic opportunity”, adding: “I am sure there is a success story in the making there.”

Orban’s links with the Tory party go back to the Brexit referendum, in which Johnson played such a major role. Tory MEPs had been criticised for standing almost alone among mainstream western European conservatives and refusing to censure Hungary over breaches of the rule of law. Orban had been one of the first guests of Theresa May in Downing Street after she became Prime Minister in 2016. 

Orban’s regime in Hungary has been a textbook case of dismantling democracy while maintaining a pseudo-democratic façade. He has placed himself as the defender of a Europe of “Christian values” opposed to liberalism, human rights, minorities and the European Union. This is the culture war writ large and is straight out of Steve Bannon’s playbook. For Fidesz (Orban’s party) to gain traction, Orban had to appeal to the populist images from Hungarian history, the leading one of which is hatred and fear of the Turks and Islam, who ruled Hungary for centuries in the guise of the Ottoman Empire. In 2015 as refugees from Syria came streaming up the Balkans through Greece, Hungary sealed its borders and erected barbed wire fences, issuing a statement that it would accept no refugees and that any found in Hungary would be detained. Many refugees found themselves sleeping in or near the main railway station in Budapest en route to Germany or Austria. A BBC reporter asked a waiter in a nearby restaurant why Hungary was not prepared to accept any and his response was that Hungary was “the Christian shield of Europe as it had been for centuries”. Orban succeeded in mining this rich field of Islamophobic feeling and virtually no refugees settled in Hungary. 

He also ignored the exhortations of the EU to accept some and his stance strengthened his stance of gallant little Hungary thumbing its nose at the large European states and refusing to water down its culture in any way. There are parallels here with Brexit.

Another traditional feature of Hungarian culture has been antisemitism and this also was mined with George Soros, the Jewish financier, who also supported the European University in Budapest being characterised as an evil force who was trying to weaken Hungary’s Christian roots and impose liberalism and refugees on the country. Orban used images of Soros on his election billboards which were so deeply antisemitic as to hark back to the anti- Jewish cartoons of the Nazi era.

Step by step and in the face of EU opposition, Orban has marginalised the press, academia and the judiciary, last year passing a law that anyone publishing any information about the Covid pandemic there unofficially would be subject to a prison sentence. Effectively total censorship. There are still some sources of resistance such as the recently elected Mayor of Budapest from an opposition party. But similarly to populist leaders elsewhere it is not in the capital that he draws his support but in the small towns and the countryside. Gradually the rights of LGBTQ people and women have been removed in the name of “Christian values”

In 2018, as Foreign Secretary, Johnson caused outrage by openly congratulating Orban on his re-election as Prime Minister. In his strategy of gradually dismantling political opposition in the UK, Johnson has seen the blueprint in Hungary. Suspending parliament, muzzling the media, with the BBC now a government mouthpiece, banning demonstrations and having his ministers appear with flags always in the background, Johnson is pursuing the same route as Orban has already taken and with no EU to guarantee rights post Brexit, is prepared to use nationalism and “British values” as a cover in the same way that Orban has used Christian values in Hungary.

Hungary is now classed as a semi democracy and is effectively a one party state. Johnson’s aim is to do the same in the UK and to emulate his good friend on the banks of the Danube. It is already late but not too late to prevent this becoming reality.

From Day of Action to Pro-Democracy Movement?

Neil Faulkner discusses strategy and tactics for the democracy struggle.

With protests in around 50 towns and cities across Britain, often a thousand or more strong, the Kill the Bill campaign has momentum. The main London demo involved at least 10,000. Overwhelmingly young and very diverse, it was led by black and white women.

But this can only be the beginning if we are to defeat the bill. Demos of 10,000 will not stop the Tory drive towards a police state. Though stalled by the protests over the last three weeks, the Tory plan is almost certainly for the bill to resume its passage through Parliament once the current round of protest has died down. They have a long-term agenda. They will not give up easily. 

The Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts bill is a crucial plank in the architecture of an emerging police state. It would allow the police to declare any planned protest illegal, exposing organisers and participants to arrests, fines, even imprisonment. 

This will include any kind of effective protest – ‘disruptive’ in Tory-speak. Occupying a library to prevent its closure. Preventing bailiffs carrying out an eviction. Blockading a fast-food joint in solidarity with striking workers. Blocking a bridge to protest carbon pollution. Holding an open-air rally outside Parliament. Marching on the City against sweatshop profiteering. Disrupting an arms fair. Anything and everything deemed ‘disruptive’ of the corporate machine, the carbon machine, or the military machine. It is to be ‘business as usual’ for capitalism, with the occasional A-to-B march on a prescribed route before a police order to disperse as liberal window-dressing.  

But the bill is only one part of a wider, long-term attack. It includes the anti-union laws first passed under Thatcher in the 1980s, which make it illegal for any union to back spontaneous action by members. It includes the escalating levels of state surveillance, from cameras on every street corner to industrial-scale spying on mobile phone and internet traffic. It includes the growing militarisation and violence of the police.

This is a global trend. The attack on democracy extends all the way from the Chinese dictatorship’s Uighur concentration camps and suppression of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement to Donald Trump’s border wall, mass incarceration of migrants, and violent police crackdown on BLM protestors. Democracy the world over is under attack by authoritarian regimes and militarised police. 

The rise of the neoliberal police state

Why is this? Why this shift from the more consensual forms of politics that predominant half a century ago to increasing state repression today?

There are two main reasons. The first is the collapse in trade-union power and in the mass, reformist, social-democratic politics that was based upon it. Democracy, in the end, depends upon powerful organisations of the majority – of the working class and the oppressed – able to advance and defend democratic freedoms. 

No ruling class ever grants democracy as a favour. Freedom is never given: it has to be taken. When working people organise, mobilise, and fight, they can win the right to strike, to meet, to publish, to vote, to have a voice, to create a space for self-expression and self-activity.

But this is a threat to the rich and the corporations. They are few and we are many. The more democracy there is, the stronger the working class and the oppressed become. So the struggle over democracy continues just so long as class society exists: they are always trying to restrict it, we are always fighting to enlarge it. They are on the offensive now, seeking to shut down democracy, to create police states, because they feel they have the power to do so.

But there is a second factor. The capitalist system means an escalating social and ecological crisis. Billions of people are affected by the consequences – unemployment, bullshit jobs, poverty pay, unaffordable housing, rising prices, cuts in benefits and pensions, hospital waiting lists, student fees, lack of social care, male violence, police racism, homophobia and transphobia, and so much more. Life just keeps getting worse for the overwhelming majority of humanity. 

This means explosions of revolt from below. Since the banking crash in 2008, we have seen one uprising after another, in city after city, from country to country, right across the world. In the last couple of years alone, we have seen pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong, Belorus, and Myanmar, feminist movements in Poland, Argentina, and Mexico, global school strikes and direct action against carbon pollution, and a movement against police racism starting in the United States that spread across the world.

These mass uprisings contain the seeds of a mortal threat to the entire capitalist social order, with its rape of the planet, its devastation of human communities, its ruthless dynamic of plunder and exploitation in the interests of a tiny class of super-rich. The system is being destabilised by its own social and ecological destructiveness. 

So the world is increasingly polarised. On the one hand, the super-rich and corporations are protected by a corrupt political class, by increasingly militarised police, by repressive laws, by a compliant mass media. On the other, there are repeated eruptions of protest and resistance that could begin to fuse into a global movement for revolutionary change. 

The fight of our lives 

We should not delude ourselves. There will be no easy victories. We are fighting a political class wedded to corporate power and state repression. We face the militarised police of the capitalist state. We threaten the interests of the 1%, the corporate rich, the lords of capital, the people whose wealth and power the state exists to protect. 

It is going to take more than a week or two of medium-sized demos, however idealistic, militant, and determined the young protestors in the vanguard. We are going to have to draw wider forces into the battle, the mass forces of the working class and the oppressed. We are going to need to turn tens of thousands into hundreds of thousands. We are going to need numbers capable of defeating the police, taking over the streets, and shutting down cities, if we are serious about stopping the bill, smashing the embryonic police state, and opening a much wider space for democratic mobilisation and resistance. 

We need a campaign that prepares for the following:

  • Maximum unity of the largest possible number of activists, organisations, and protestors prepared to fight for democracy.
  • A long-term perspective, in anticipation of a struggle likely to last for years and that must aim to defeat all forms of state authoritarianism.
  • An internationalist perspective, with the intention of forging links with the struggle for democracy everywhere.
  • An all-out fight, with no compromises, no backing down, no compliance with unjust laws and police diktat.

Neil Faulkner is joint author of Creeping Fascism and System Crash. He will be speaking with Bristol activist Josh Connor at the Democracy Unchained event, The Battle for Democracy: Frontline Bristol, 18.30, Thursday 8 April, on Zoom.  

A government escaping accountability

One worrying trend in recent years has been the moves by Tory government’s to avoid scrutiny and accountability by parliament.

The government increasingly use ‘fast track laws’ and decrees that bypass the trouble of having to go through parliament. 

Government ministers and Tory back benchers have also engaged in regular public criticism of judges and lawyers who have used the law to hold the government to account. When Boris Johnson shut down parliament early in 2019 to avoid a political row over Brexit the Supreme Court intervened and order them to return parliament as what Johnson had done was unlawful. This led to Tories making noises that the Supreme Court should have fewer powers to force parliament to follow the law. 

The COVID Pandemic saw a number of laws and restrictions introduced to protect public health. Whilst these were necessary to save lives, it was also inevitable in the hands of the Tory government that they would be misused, and now Priti Patel, a hard right authoritarian, is keen to extend and expand the emergency powers from COVID into the future, even when the pandemic is over. 

This is also a government that has banned journalists from briefings that it deems to be troublesome and has used government social media accounts to launch attacks on journalists for doing their job. 

The political system we have now is far from perfect, and has to be replaced by something more radical and representative, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore or downplay the chipping away of what democratic rights we have and ways we have to hold those in power accountable.

The danger is that Labour pursues an agenda not too dissimilar to the Tories. They are trying to out play the Tories on law and order, they are pulling their punches when it comes to the government’s handling of the Corona Virus. 

With few friends in parliament, we need a broad based movement to defend our political and democratic rights. 

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill


This article was written by David Landau and originally published by Left Unity.

“Existential Threat” is currently a rather overused expression. But it applies to this situation. An ‘existential threat’ comes in at least two guises. It can be a threat of the actual extermination of a people – Genocide. Or it can be a threat to destroy a people’s way of life, culture, activities, and so forth. Or it can be a mixture of the two.

A Brief History

Romani people and Irish Travellers have suffered persecution throughout their history. Romani people left Northern India/Pakistan around one thousand years ago. In the ensuing millennia, they have spread to many countries around the globe – Europe, North and South America, Russia, China, and the Middle East. Some were nomadic people. Others tried to settle but were met with hostility and either abandoned their identities or became nomadic like their brother and sisters. What remained strong, on the move or in settlements, was a tight-knit community. If you visit a Gypsy site like Dale Farm, for example, you feel that you are entering into a kind of village. Static or mobile, Romani people and Irish Travellers do not want their communities broken up.

So they suffered and still suffer discrimination and persecution. Nation-states throughout the world and down the ages, try to destroy communities within them which have bonds stronger than the nation and are people without borders. Sometimes they try to destroy the way of life; sometimes they try and destroy the people themselves. In Romania, Roma were kept as slaves (enshrined in law) for about 200 years. The practice was abandoned during the 19th Century.

Along with the Jews, the Roma were a people targeted for destruction by the Nazis. More recently in some parts of Eastern Europe, fascist and far-right populist movements have carried out pogroms against Roma Settlements. In Hungary, there were incidents where settlements were set alight and fleeing people were shot dead. In parallel to this, the Hungarian state has outlawed such settlements.

In the last couple of decades, the French and Italian states have brutally cleared Roma Settlements. But the big contradiction is that they have tried to outlaw their nomadic life too. So what were Roma supposed to? Answer – stop being Roma, stop being Gypsies, stop being Travellers. Hence – Existential Threat.


So what about in Britain? Well, it did not begin well. Henry 8th declared a law making being a Gypsy a hanging offence. In later centuries, however, there was an uneasy peace between Gypsies and the wider communities. Farmers were often happy to have Gypsies doing things like fruit picking and other skills which were associated with Gypsies such as blacksmithing. However, in the 20th century progressed new tensions arose more land was bought into use. More and more sites were broken up.

However, in the early 1970s new legislation was bought in obliging local authorities to provide regulated sites. This was not popular with all Gypsies and Travellers. It meant that they were fixed and the local authority was in control. But it was a lot better than nothing.

But in 1994 the obligation was taken away. The Government encouraged Gypsies to buy their own land. Trying to do this was a tremendous financial burden but some communities managed to save up the money and buy the land only to find that they were not allowed to move on to the land because they could not get planning permission. So those who did move on to THEIR OWN LAND found themselves facing bailiffs and police often brutally smashing up their sites.

So those who were already nomadic were joined by those trying to stay but within the community. Their lesson was clear – stop being Travellers, stop being Gypsies. Break up your communities, your fixed or travelling villages, and get a house or flat. Of course, in many ways, this was counterproductive even for Capital. There is a housing crisis, as we know only too well and this policy is simply adding to the competition for housing. So you can see that there is a strong ideological, prejudiced and populist current driving British Government policy.

In the last couple of years, some London boroughs introduced blanket injunctions against anybody settling on the land. Bromley Council was successfully challenged in the courts so this tactic by local authorities has failed.

The New Proposed Legislation

This brings us to the new proposed legislation which had its first reading in its on Monday. The Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill is an attack on all of us but is specifically an attack on Gypsies and Travellers. It contains a section that creates a new criminal offence against unauthorised encampments. The new offence will:

• Will target trespassers who intend to reside on any private or public land in vehicles without permission and where they are causing significant disruption, distress, or harm to local communities.

• Give Police powers to seize vehicles and arrest offenders

• The new offence will be punishable by a prison sentence of up to 3 months or £2,500 fine or both.

As a sop to critics like us, the Government says that ‘the measures will target harmful encampments which reflect badly on the wider nomadic community as a whole, the majority of whom are law-abiding. But who are these wider nomadic communities – Where can they stop, let alone settle, without breaching this law?

But Home Secretary Priti Patel gives the game away –

“They are residing or intending to reside without the consent of the occupier – this will ensure unintentional instances of trespass are not affected such as ramblers or hikers”.

So ramblers and hikers are one thing but a COMMUNITY is quite another.

Another sop is that they will only apply to cases where there is

‘a request by the occupier or police to leave the land’

but where are they supposed to go?

A very sinister sentence is that

“The amendments will broaden the range of factors which police can consider when enforcing the law, to include interference with access to utilities like water, gas and electricity…..”

So what about the health & safety considerations in relation to children or disabled people living on the site?

Inclusive Unity

These proposals are like a dagger to the heart of Gypsy and Traveller communities. But it could be an opportunity. The whole of the Government Bill has antagonised vast swathes of people in this country. It can unite people in opposition. Travellers and Gypsies need to be at the heart of the campaign against it and we must facilitate that.

An injury to one is an injury to all but a victory for one is a victory for all.

Why we need an activist campaign for our democratic rights

This is a proposal to establish a committee to organise against the encroaching attacks on democratic and political rights being pursued by the Conservative Government.

In the context of the global rise of the far right and populist authoritarianism the Johnson government represents a real threat. Right wing Tories have already made clear that they want to dismantle the Human Rights Act. The recent BLM protests were denounced as “illegal” by Home Secretary Priti Patel and the policing of the found to be racist by monitoring organisation Netpol. Now Patel has written to HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services to find ways to restrict rights to protest after COVID lock down ends. 

The attempt to shut down the vigil for Sarah Everard murdered by a serving Met Police officer and then the attack on it after dark shows the direction. It was the heroic decision by Sister Uncut to defy the police and keep the action going, and then the decision to call another mass protest the next day outside New Scotland Yard which shows the direction that we must go down. 

The recent years have seen a number of new laws and policies introduced which criminalise protest and criticism of government policy, including gagging academics, a domestic extremist database and so on. They are proposing to make ID compulsory for voting which is intended to discriminate against Black and other communities.  The government has banned education around ‘anti-capitalism’ from schools, meanwhile the right are claiming to be the victims over ‘cancel culture’ and are aggressively pursuing their own agenda of free speech which is a cover for their desire to be racist, sexist and so on.

The government is rushing through a new bill that will make “effective protest” illegal if it causes a “nuisance”, protest organisers facing jail time and/or a massive fine. In a country like Britain which prides itself on being a modern democracy, protests are still seen as a civil right, but mass protests or protests with direct action components that disrupt business will be targeted. It was revealing when Patel wrote to the police chiefs saying that protists cannot disrupt “the rights of others to go about their daily business”. In the same way that trade unionism is legal but effective trade unionism is effectively illegal, so too protests will be very hard to organise, mountains of paperwork, prohibitively expensive fines or prison sentences for people organising any direct action that affects business.

It is worth bearing in mind also that Labour has recently backed harsh penalties for people defacing war memorials and Sadiq Khan was firmly opposed to any disruptive actions by Extinction Rebellion – Labour leaders will not be reliable allies in this struggle. Tragic, considering how Keir Starmer sold himself to the party membership as a campaigning civil rights lawyer. But Labour has prevaricated on these issues, and is now looking to have a firmer stance against the moves towards greater police powers. A fight in the Labour Party and trade unions over these issues will be crucial. 

Among the main targets of new repressive measures will be two movements that are so important in the current global situation, the anti racist movement and the environmental movement. But any increase in police will be used against any and all radical protest movements.

Taking into account the attacks on migrants, increase in surveillance and the global moves towards ‘stronger’ states this is a worrying trend. Defence of political and civil rights will be an increasingly important battleground over the coming years. The political establishment and the big business know that in the coming years protests will no doubt be militant, ‘disruptive’, angry acts of defiance against a capitalist system that is destroying the planet and wrecking peoples lives. The next years will be turbulent as the contradictions of capitalism, imperialism and climate change entwine and deepen.

We have to defend the right to protest as well as wider civil and political rights as the tendency towards authoritarian security ‘solutions’ to political problems become more prevalent. 

What is needed is a campaign for our political and democratic rights, a campaigning organisation that isn’t just an NGO but is a campaigning organisation. One that also provides broad solidarity with campaigners across the world fighting for their democratic rights. It can also point to a better world, one where democracy is unchained and we do not have to live with these repressive institutions and social structures any more. Such an organisation would not seek to replace existing campaigns but act as a fulcrum for resistance.

  • Resist the attacks on civil and defend democratic and political in Britain.
  • Highlight the role of racist, violent policing
  • Defend migrants  and refugee rights. Have a clear commitment to anti-racism and self organisation of oppressed groups. 
  • Support trade union freedoms and the right to strike 
  • Support the democratic rights to criticise the government and its political agenda. No support of the right for bigots to promote their agenda of hate.
  • Highlight the cause of people fighting for democratic rights abroad (Hong Kong, Myanmar/Burma, etc)

MEETING: The Battle for Democracy – front line Bristol

About this Event

Democracy Unchained present:- The Battle for Democracy: FRONTLINE BRISTOL

The discussion will be introduced by Joshua Connor (Bristol Activist and trade union organiser) and Neil Faulkner (joint author of Creeping Fascism and System Crash)

Democracy is under attack across the world. Authoritarian regimes are cracking down on protest and resistance.

The new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill making its way through parliament is a dangerous attack on our civil and political rights.

The Tories want to make effective protest illegal – to create a Police State.

We need to understand what is happening and work out strategies for resistance. We must think globally, plan for the long term and build a militant mass movement to defend and extend democracy.