China tried to shut down exhibition in Kyiv that showcased Hong Kong democratic movement, organizers said

Photo: Facebook/freeHKexhibition 

Civil Society, International

On 10 January the Kyiv-based civil society group Free Hong Kong Center (FHKC) published a statement on Facebook, stating that the Chinese Embassy in Kyiv threatened FHKC and demanded that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the Kyiv City State Administration ban an exhibition devoted to the parallels between the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity and Hong Kong Democratic Movement against the Beijing-aligned government. As planned, the exhibition was successfully held on 11-17 January.

The Free Hong Kong Center accompanied its 10 January post with two notable documents reportedly received from the partners of the organization. One document appears to be the Chinese Embassy’s appeal to the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs written in Russian and dated 6 January in which China urges Ukraine to ban an exhibition organized by Free Hong Kong Center that was due to be staged on 11-17 January.

“The goal of the exhibition is obvious, it is of a mendacious nature and is an unalloyed brazen interference in the domestic affairs of China. The Chinese side is vehemently opposed to holding this exhibition and strongly urges the Ukrainian side to take effective measures in order to ban the holding of this exhibition. Otherwise, it can attract [привлечь instead of повлечь ‘cause’ in the original – Ed.] grave consequences in the bilateral relations,” the note reads. Scan: Facebook/ufhkc

The diplomatic note was one of the attachments to another document that appeared to be a memo by the Ukrainian MFA sent to the Kyiv City State Administration on 8 January, in which the Ministry asks local authorities “to consider the above-mentioned information by the Chinese diplomatic institution in Ukraine and, in case legal reasons exist, take corresponding measures…”

Instead of replying to China that Ukraine is a democratic state where the citizens are free to do anything not prohibited by the law, the Ukrainian MFA redirects the request to Kyiv authorities for consideration. Scan: Facebook/ufhkc

The German initiative Germany Stand with Hong Kong stated that the same exhibition was held in several German cities including Köln, Weimar, and Berlin.

FHKC said that the Chinese Communist Party “once again allows itself to intervene in the Ukrainian civil sector, denigrates the Free Hong Kong Center and calls on the Ukrainian authorities to take illegal and unconstitutional actions.”

The Center called in on the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry and the Presidential Office to “take all possible actions to suppress the unconstitutional violations of foreign states on human and citizen rights and freedoms in Ukraine” and demanded public apologies from the Chinese Embassy. No reaction followed.

On the eve of the first day of the exhibition the organizers reported, “Since we feel we are doing nothing wrong, we will continue as planned and face the consequences. We refuse to be bullied and intimidated. We stand for the values of freedom of expression.”

The exhibition kicked off on 11 January as planned and lasted for a week.

Footage from the first day of the exhibition.

However, the organizers had to reformat some events, because the Hongkongers who were going to participate in the exhibition were not able to arrive in Kyiv, citing the threats of the Chinese authorities.

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Talking by phone on the condition of anonymity to the Kyiv Post, the Hong Kong artist who started the exhibition said,

“The whole exhibition is already monitored by the (Chinese Communist Party) government and (we) worry we and our families and friends would be threatened by the Chinese agents.”

The Free Hong Kong Center confirmed their Hong Kong counterparts were not able to come to Ukraine due to risks and threats of the Chinese government, “because they do not feel sufficiently protected by the Ukrainian government,” FHKC reported.

It was not the first time when the Chinese officials tried to press on civil society groups in Ukraine. Back in October, Kyiv Post reported citing an unnamed source in the Ukrainian Parliament that the Chinese Embassy in Kyiv lobbied lawmakers from President Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party to act against the Ukrainian activists from the Kyiv-based Liberal Democratic League of Ukraine (LDLU) and the Free Hong Kong Center (FHKC) who support Hong Kong’s democratic movement.
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