On 12th November, the activist group Nottingham Stands With Hong Kong (NSWHK) held a protest after submitting a de-twin petition to Nottingham City Council in June. The political group set up a booth in front of the city council hall to urge Nottingham to end its sister city diplomacy with the Chinese city Ningbo. Since the campaign began, NSWHK have acquired 2500 signatures in support of their cause, and are now urging Nottingham City Council to discuss the issue in an upcoming city council meeting. Impact’s Sophie Robinson spoke with a member of the activist group, who will be referred to as K to protect their identity.
Nottingham City Council has developed its partnership with Ningbo over the past 15 years, as the first of its kind to develop a Five Year Plan to create ‘closer trade, civic, cultural and educational ties’ with the city. NSWHK have been working as part of a national joint action campaign to end sister city status with China, which is especially important in Nottingham after the city council “established the moral ground of our community by refusing to support violations of human rights”, as K explained.
K revealed that the community-led group was formed in 2019 by a group of Hong Kong overseas students and was established to “fight the totalitarianism of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and free Hong Kong from its tyranny.” They stand in solidarity with those who have been oppressed by the CCP regime and aim to form alliances with Nottingham residents who share the same values.
Fighting for our democratic rights and freedom
“Our group was formed in light of the escalation of street protests when scenes of police brutality became a daily basis in Hong Kong. While the scope for free speech in Hong Kong continues to be curtailed and thousands of people have been prosecuted, we persist in spreading awareness of the issue and fighting for our democratic rights and freedom.”
“The Hong Kong community in Nottingham, with many who fled Hong Kong due to political oppression, are determined to continue to fight against the CCP regime. NSWHK has organised various events such as rallies, exhibitions and marches to bring awareness to the locals of Nottingham, to which our local MP and councillors frequently attend and show their support.” During the protest last month, Councillors Adele Williams, Nick Raine and
Shuguftah Quddoos showed up to support NSWHK.
K also explained that NSWHK had launched a global “De-twin with China” campaign in 2022 with 18 activist groups from around the world to “stop the soft infiltration of China through twinning relationships”.
“Underlines the significance of reiterating Nottingham’s moral values”
When asked about why it’s so important that Nottingham ends its ties with Ningbo, K emphasised that the values of the cities do not align. They explained that Nottingham decided to de-twin with the cities Minsk in Belarus and Krasnodar in Russia in March of this year as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. K highlighted that this “underlines the significance of reiterating Nottingham’s moral values”.
“China has demonstrated its stance favouring Russian aggression. China’s judge dissented from the International Court of Justice’s ruling ordering Russia to halt its invasion of Ukraine. China also broke its 2013 promise to ensure Ukraine’s security under threat of a nuclear strike”.
“The city of Wakefield and Newport had previously severed their ties with China. Followed by Newcastle City Council recently, which unanimously passed the motion to de-twin with their Chinese sister city Taiyuan to oppose the inhumane treatments of the CCP towards the Uyghurs, including sterilisation, re-education and torturing. Nottingham should follow the other cities to de-twin with China to safeguard the values our city cherishes.”
“Altering perceptions of China and are a threat to academic freedom”
K further explained that cultural events fostered by twinning agreements like student exchanges, and language and art residencies, all facilitate China’s “overseas infiltration and propaganda spreading”. “One notable example is the Confucius Institutes (CI), which are frequently associated with sister city partnerships. CIs, backed by the Chinese government and under the CCP’s control, are altering perceptions of China and are a threat to academic freedom.”
“CIs also refrain from discussing subjects that China deems sensitive and employs staff in a biased manner – subjecting to political, religious views and race, while using enormous budgets from the UK Government. The University of Nottingham is currently home to a Confucius Institute.” K explained that this can potentially restrict research and teaching at the university.
In terms of what students at UoN can do, K suggested that they can sign the petition and write to councillors urging them to bring the issue into discussions.
“We hope that the Students’ Union in Nottingham can take similar actions to safeguard the interests of our students by pressuring the university to disclose and review its collaborations with China. We welcome those who want to participate in this campaign to get in touch with NSWHK.”
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