Millions voted in Hong Kong in the highly anticipated local election seen as a barometer of public opinion after months of increasingly violent protests in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. Pro-democracy forces have landed a landslide victory in the district council election with many pro-Beijing politicians losing their mandates as a result.
Also, on the sixth year anniversary of the Euromaidan revolution this week, many Ukrainians showed their solidarity with the protesters in Hong Kong. We invited the main coordinator of the Free Hong Kong Center based in Kyiv, Arthur Kharytonov to draw the parallels between the events of 2013-14 in Ukraine and 2019 in Hong Kong.
That's incredible, first of all, for our audience who didn't follow [the events] much. Connect the dots: we knew that the protesters from Hong Kong were looking at Ukraine. It's a symbolic broadcast for us. Today it's six years since the Euromaidan revolution. Explain to us what you are doing, what the connection is and what we need to know about this.
Let's first say congratulations to all Hongkongers who are watching right now because we have so far news that all democrats won so many places in the district elections right now. Coming to our topic today, yes, of course, the connection between Ukraine and Hong Kong is so incredible and so strong because even from 2015 when we had a documentary film “Winter on Fire”. All Hongkongers watched it and took in so many experiences and [so much] passion to fight as Ukrainians did. So I think that there is, first of all, a psychological connection, and a spiritual connection. Then we would compare what has been at the Euromaidan and what we have now in Hong Kong. It's actually the same: how people are fighting, how the government is reacting and so on.
What is the main message for the foreign audience? We see some solidarity activities in front of the Chinese Embassy here, but you wouldn't say that Ukraine is as a state an ally of the protesters. Ukraine is in a number of international inner political crises now. But that’s something that the Ukrainians are doing as well. What else are the protesters from Hong Kong asking you, for instance?
It's different points. When we are talking about people and support from people which is, of course, huge. Many Ukrainians are in favor of the Hong Kong protests. If we are talking about the Ukrainian government, it's keeping silent. It's very vague first of all because it’s my very strong position that the current Ukrainian government is enjoying fruits of Euromaidan and how does it dare to keep silent after what we've done before and which kind of democracy we are protecting. About Hongkongers, of course, they are asking to save Hong Kong because it is under attack from China. And what as Ukraine we could do, it's, first of all, raising the issue on UN level. Because we remember how we were six years ago, and this spirit, this question to the world: "Please save us, please save Ukraine" and we have the same in Hong Kong right now.
Let's explain to our audience because among them there are a lot of people who are interested in Eastern Europe. Explain what is similar because for some people there is just visual similarity. Of course, there are either the Molotov cocktails or people in masks or the [number] of people on the street. But what makes it more connected?
First of all, it's the methods of enemies like Russia and [Viktor] Yanukovych, and Beijing and pro-Beijing parties in Hong Kong. Because what we have actually seen even today, on the election day, the methods how they are influencing people: this bribing by food and rice, all these different bad points they are doing during the elections, how they are manipulating people, and of course the reaction of Russia and Beijing to the protests. What did we have before? We had this strong position from Moscow that Ukraine is something horrible, that we have a neo-nazi regime and so on. And Beijing is talking the same about Hong Kong people. But Hongkongers are taking a lot of experience from Ukraine as I've told and they are trying to [send] a strong message that it's not true, it's just propaganda.
You established the Free Hong Kong Center. Of course, you are not alone. Please explain how it works and what your aim is.
For the contemporary project of the non-governmental organization Liberal Democratic League of Ukraine and it's different points because we have LDLU as a quite big organization with almost 200 people, and we have the Free Hong Kong Center, which has three or four people who are always doing day-to-day work with Hongkongers. Of course, for me, it is very important to work with it since I am the main coordinator of the Free Hong Kong Center. We are trying to [bring the issue of connections between Ukraine and Hong Kong to] light, like how we were connected from 2014. Because we remember that almost six months after the Revolution of Dignity ended, we had the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong. Even at that time, it was very connected because people have been asking if Ukrainians did it, we can do it as well.
Inspired by Maidan: this Hong Kong protester's helmet features a Ukrainian-language slogan echoing Ukraine's own 2014 revolutionary battle cry:— Business Ukraine mag (@Biz_Ukraine_Mag) October 1, 2019
"Glory to Hong Kong, Glory to the Heroes!" pic.twitter.com/6Rc3GJ7r6A
So you are in touch with the protesters in Hong Kong. What are the questions at this moment? Because Ukraine has lived this year without a discussion about what we have accomplished at Hromadske International. It's more or less a general topic. But what are the questions? What knowledge do they want from the Ukrainians? And what do they want from Ukrainians?
First of all, I think it’s more about how you did it, like how you fought it, which kind of tools you used because always when you're facing police brutality on such level, a lot of Ukrainians who were on the Maidan even say that the Hong Kong situation is worse than we had in Ukraine. It's more brutal. So how did we fight against the police, how did we fight against the government? It’s very important for Hongkongers to understand, but, of course, they're following the news and taking a lot of experience from the documentary “Winter on Fire”. And you know Volodymyr Parasiuk became the symbol of Hong Kong protests because a lot of Hongkongers are posting his quotes from the documentary before the last days of the Maidan, that we must fight, and we must win because there is no life within the frame of unfreedom. So Hongkongers want to know more about it, and, of course, they're quite interested [in] how Ukraine behaves after the Euromaidan because I think it's quite a pity that Hongkongers don’t know a lot about further steps of Ukraine. It's quite dramatic. But anyway we are still on our way: I‘m always saying that Ukraine is providing the next steps of the fight.
So to conclude, I have a short question. You have the Free Hong Kong Center and this connection between Ukraine and Hong Kong: the activists, the solidarity movement. Do you want others to join because it is not just about these two countries?
Of course, and that is why we are dealing a lot on the European level. Just a few weeks ago, we got unanimous voting from ALDE Group (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe - ed.). We are seeing Hong Kong support all over Europe. Our [colleagues] from Sweden and Germany are doing a great job. Already we as Ukraine use human rights issues on ALDE and EPP (European People's Party - ed.) level, so we have very strong resolutions there. And I think it's so symbolic that Ukraine right now is fighting for Hong Kong as other countries fought for us many years ago.