Hong Kong Universities Turned Into A War Zone. Can you hear the people sing? Will you come and stand with me?

Nov 13, 2019 | News

Can you hear the people sing? Will you come and stand with me? Can You Now Hear Them Weep As They Watch Hong Kong’s Universities  Turned Into A War Zone



And, in Cantonese…



Watching the Tiananmen-style assault on Hong Kong universities and their students I looked again at a postcard I recently received from a student in Hong Kong. 


It included some words from the Les Misérables classic refrain “Do you Hear the people sing?” with a postscript “Is there a world you long to see?Will you come and stand with me?”

Do you hear the people sing 1

It’s not just about a future world which Hong Kongers wants to see: it’s about their familiar world which they are seeing destroyed.


A lady wrote to me last night to express her despair: The Hong Kong I remember used to filled with laughter and prosperity. Now it is replaced with tears, blood, anger and despair. Even so, we love this place we call home”.


A student emailed me from one of the universities to say: the intensity last night was a completely new level when the firing of tear gas has been literally non-stop; I later realized that the HKPolice fired more than 1000 tg overnight. I don’t know how to describe the suffocating-ness, the burning-ness in eyes and on skin, the screams out of injured and fear; It had to be a hell. Yes it was a hell, …in front of us were students hit by rubber bullets, in their eyes, in their heads, in their chests…




One of Asia’s truly great cities, a free city, is now under de facto martial law, convulsed by previously unimaginable scenes.


Three months ago, inspired by Jean Valjean and the students in Les Mis, some Hong Kong school children, during their morning Assembly sang the plea to stand against oppression and dictatorship – instead of singing the National Anthem.

do you hear the people sing 2

In its characteristically authoritarian, heavy-handed, way, China responded by removing the song from music platforms.


Like most of the counter-productive things that authoritarians do, it simply helped to further popularise the song – into Cantonese and Taiwanese. The most popular version is translated as “Asking Who That Hasn’t Spoken Out” (問誰未發聲)? 



It’s a question for our Government but perhaps, even more so, for the Leader of the Labour Party. On the election trail he found find time to express solidarity with Evo Morales, Bolivia’s ousted Marxist leader, but where was his voice in expressing support for Hong Kong as it stands bravely against Beijing’s variant strand of Marxism? 


As one of the two signatories to the international 1984 Treaty guaranteeing Hong Kong’s autonomy, the rule of law and independent judiciary, human rights and basic freedoms, that is a question which the unheard people of Hong Kong have every right to ask the U.K. 


Those whose voices have been muted and who have failed to stand with Hong Kong should think very carefully about what is at stake.


Think of Chow Tze Lok who is now dead – because of tear gas, batons and police blockade – one of thousands subjected to police brutality.


Think of the boy shot with a live round at close range by the police – his life still hangs in the balance.


Think of the 3 million who, since June, have demonstrated peacefully, and the more than three thousand who have been arrested: one third of them under the age of 16 whilst most of them are university students. 


Think of the unexplained deaths and unexplained suicides – more than fifty by some accounts, including a 15 year old.


Think of Carrie Lam’s obduracy, her craven submission to her puppeteers in Beijing, her Emergency Regulations, her multiple court injunctions and a de facto curfew, all aimed at stifling the voices of Hong Kong’s law abiding, freedom loving people.


Students will converge on Lam’s old College at Cambridge this weekend calling for Wolfson to remove her Honorary Fellowship. 


What better message to send to Hong Kong’s university students trapped and under siege in their Hong Kong campuses – that their British counterparts have heard their voices?


The U.K. Government should go further and reconsider her family’s citizenship rights. It must hold to account those who last night in Hong Kong university campuses shot 1000 tear gas canisters and severely injured more than 60 students.


Think, too, of the collusion with the triads, local gangs, agents provocateurs and hired henchmen, attempting to intimidate, provoke and provide a pretext for martial law, deferral of elections, and Red Army suppression.


Think of the bravery of young leaders like Joshua Wong – who was recently nominated for the Westminster Award for Human Rights, Human Life and Human Dignify and who has been told this week that he is to receive it.



I was privileged to chair a meeting for Joshua at Westminster, where he extolled his commitment to democracy, the rule of law, nonviolent protest, human rights and democracy.  


At least some at Westminster have understood that the best response to Joshua’s disqualification as an election candidate, and being jailed for promoting democracy, is for him to be honoured by people who share his values.


Carrie Lam – with an 82% disapproval rating – unapologetically regards young people like Joshua as “having no stake in the society” adamantly insisting that she will not “make concessions” to the pro democracy advocates.  Her description of them as “enemies of the people” was disturbing and insensitive at best and deeply offensive at worst.


Beijing’s rubber-stamp politicians and their police openly demonise these fine young people calling them “cockroaches” and saying that they must be “crushed”. A police superintendent, Mr. Vasco Willams, disparagingly and disgracefully called an unconscious first aider detainee a “yellow object”.


So who are we with? Carrie Lam and Communism or Joshua Wong and liberal democracy? Evo Morales or the pro-democracy campaigners of Hong Kong?


Commenting this week, on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the philosopher, Roger Scruton, reminded us that in some circles the “charm” of tyrannical Communist authoritarianism, “has been barely diminished by its enormous legacy of human suffering.”


But in reflecting on the stand which the people of Eastern Europe successfully took three decades ago, he concluded that “the oppressors had set out to control things, and the people had at last said no.”


Now, as Hong Kong defiantly says no to the abandonment of “two systems, one country” and its replacement with “one system, one party”  we must do more than listen to the people sing and be willing to take a stand with them.






.Previous Posts …

To read the recent House of Lords debate on Hong Kong, go to:


Also see Joshua Wong’s letter from his time in prison …


Why We Are All Hong Kongers Now –  On November 9th – The Day On Which The Berlin Wall Fell – Recall that Dictatorships And One Party States Can Have Their Day 


Muslim Uighurs forced To Give DNA Samples in Re-education Centres to which 1 million people have been reportedly sent – February 2019.



Protestant church dynamited 


Organ Transplants and Human Rights Abuses in China – Sir Geoffrey Nice QC and Martin Elliott report the findings of “The Independent Tribunal into Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners of Conscience in China”


Also see:


Ben Rogers and Johnny Patteson in TIME – https://time.com/5729342/us-hong-kong/  and  Cambridge University’s Varsity publication  https://www.varsity.co.uk/interviews/18280  

The Adam Smith Institute’s Matt Kilcoyne wrote this for Telegraph: – https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/11/14/defend-cause-freedom-britain-should-open-doors-liberty-loving/





Lord David Alton

For 18 years David Alton was a Member of the House of Commons and today he is an Independent Crossbench Life Peer in the UK House of Lords.

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