Over the years I have witnessed more political protest marches in more places about more things than you can shake a placard stick at. In fact, if protest miles were a thing, my place in the Che Guevara Lounge of Revolutionary Airways would be assured.
After nearly 40 years, starting as a student agitator against “[Margaret] Thatcher the Milk Snatcher’’ in late 1970s Scotland to journalistic observer of the mass tumult which toppled and led to the execution of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989 and countless Hong Kong pro-democracy marches, if asked today “What do we want?” and “When do we want it?” my most likely answer would be: a toilet, now!
Over the years, the banners brandished and slogans shouted have ranged from the downright rubbish and hopelessly unachievable to the incredibly effective and laugh-out-loud funny – my personal favourite being the absurd “Free Bill Posters”.
However, at the New Year’s Day pro-democracy march in Hong Kong this week, being held aloft was a placard that took the ridiculous biscuit, crumbs and all. Unless, of course, the person carrying it was a foot soldier of the agent provocateur wing of the Chinese Communist Party.
It read: “Make Hong Kong Great Britain Again.’’
Putting to one side the not insignificant faux pas of plagiarising the campaign slogan of a semi-literate president of the United States for whom democracy represents a means to nefarious authoritarian ends, if whoever penned the words on this placard was serious, I suggest they stem the flow with a double dose of verbal Imodium and read on.
As a British passport holder as well as a permanent resident of Hong Kong, I will no doubt be considered a treacherous turncoat to Queen and country for what I am about to say. But say it I will and to anyone who wants to shoot the messenger, you know where to find me and I can supply the gun if you aren’t tooled up.
China summons British embassy officials in Beijing over ‘raft of incorrect comments’ after UK activist barred from Hong Kong
In any case, Hong Kong never was and never will be Great Britain. It was like so many other places around the world, a stolen plunder of empire, an empire over which generations of schoolchildren were taught the sun never sets.
As has been said by greater men and women than I could ever imagine to be, the real reason eternal pink daylight shone across the British imperial map was because God could never trust the Brits in the dark.
Our placard-waving friend would do well to ponder that sentiment, given that two decades after your shining white knight left Hong Kong, it has shown absolutely no sign that your trust and love will ever be reciprocated, not as long as there is a deal to be done and money to be made.
I certainly don’t have ready-made solutions for the difficult and deep-rooted problems this city faces, but I know one thing for certain, they do not lie in clinging to a past which is well and truly in the past and placing your trust in the untrustworthy.
And if you think that treachery is a trait the British establishment ditched as the letters of their empire dropped off one by one, read the official documents released by the Irish government last week. They revealed that British intelligence sought the services of a loyalist terrorist gang in Northern Ireland to murder the democratically elected prime minister of Ireland, Charles Haughey, in 1987.
Be careful what you wish for. Perfidious Albion indeed.