2 Oct 2019

Celebrating China's national day in Auckland as tension in Hong Kong escalates

8:02 am on 2 October 2019

With gun salutes firing, air echelon flying, armed formation parading, China was celebrating its 70th anniversary at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

Chinese employees gather in Auckland to live stream China's national day parade.

Chinese employees gather in Auckland to live stream China's national day parade. Photo: RNZ / Liu Chen

In New Zealand yesterday, Chinese people gathered to watch the grand national day parade, while the tension in Hong Kong was unrelenting.

Aucklander Ivy Lin's company gathered its Chinese employees to watch the live stream of China's national day parade at their office in Ellerslie.

Ms Lin said it was a moment full of emotions when she heard China's national anthem.

"When I heard that - it's very cheerful and I was tearful," she said.

Ms Lin, who moved to Auckland five years ago, said she remembered the parade 20 years ago in 1999 when she was still in primary school, and the difference was huge.

She said the more advanced military equipment reminded her of improvements in economy, the quality of life.

Her boss Gu Chenxi, who came from China to New Zealand 20 years ago, said the parade made him proud to be Chinese.

"I feel like I'm sitting on a big boat that is on very big waves. I feel very excited. I have been overseas for a long time, but my heart is also connected with the motherland," he said.

Mr Gu hoped New Zealand took more advantage of what China had to offer.

"I wish this great country [China] can bring us more opportunities and build a better relationship with New Zealand," he said.

Dave Bromwich, president of the New Zealand China Friendship Society, has just received a friendship award from the Chinese government and was in Beijing for the national day celebration.

"Across Tiananmen Square it was full of people on tiered seating and seeing the flags waving was quite spectacle. They're very enthusiastic. The military parades retained their serious dignity, but the civilian parades were very bouncy and ecstatic," he said.

Mr Bromwich, who lived in China on-and-off for nine years, said the feeling among locals and foreigners alike was one of pride.

"I think everybody was really proud of China, including we foreigners who have spent some time here. We're proud of what's happening in China, looking at the 70 years of history, the development and considering the future."

The celebration of 70 years of Communist Party rule took place as pro-democracy protests continued in Hong Kong.

Facebook group We Are Hong Konger organised an anti-totalitarianism rally in Auckland's Aotea Square on 29 September.

Anti-totalitarianism rally in Auckland's Aotea Square.

Anti-totalitarianism rally in Auckland's Aotea Square on 29 September. Photo: RNZ / Liu Chen

Its spokesperson, who didn't want to be named, said it's normal for people to celebrate the establishment of their country, but "Hong Kong people are suffering from oppression and violence from China".

"Our government uses mobs and triads to attack pro-democracy citizens and youngsters. The totalitarian rule of China is rejecting our freedom and rights promised under the principle of 'one country, two systems' and oppressing us with every possible means in the hope that we will finally bend our knees."

It was nearly four months since Hong Kong people took to the streets to protest a controversial extradition bill and what they saw as China's ever tightening grip on the island.