A video has been released showing the moment a cyclist in London went over to a group of pro-China supporters to tell them the majority of British people are 'disgusted' by how accommodating the UK government has been to Chinese President Xi Jinping on his UK state visit. The footage shows barrister Paul Powlesland get off his bike and approach a group of pro-China protesters outside the Guildhall in the city of London on 21 October.
In the clip that was filmed on a mobile phone and uploaded to the Free Tibet Facebook page, he proceeds to point out the hypocrisy of the group using their free speech to demonstrate their support for a regime that heavily suppresses human rights.
"You come here to express your right to freedom of speech; do you think that right should be extended to everyone? All around the world; in Tibet, in Beijing?" he asks.
When asked by one of the demonstrators if he believes in Scottish independence, Powlesland responds, "I believe in Scottish independence. But the point is Scottish people wouldn't be arrested for having Scottish independence [demonstrations], like you would in Beijing. Scottish people are allowed to vote. Why aren't you giving the right to Tibetan people?"
Barrister Paul Powlesland confronted pro-China supporters outside London's GuildhallFacebook: Free Tibet
Powlesland then goes on to tell the crowd that away from the welcoming reception that President Xi Jinping has received from the UK government and royal family, the majority of British people are concerned that the deals with China are emphasising profit over people.
"So many English people are frankly disgusted with the welcome your president has got in our country; that our prime minister will roll over and frankly do everything your president tells him to for money," he says.
Since being published online on 21 October, the video has gone viral, having been reached by 1.5 million people on Facebook and receiving more than 500,000 views. Alistair Currie, the campaign manager at Free Tibet, who filmed the incident on his phone, told IBTimes UK it showed the power of free speech in this country.
"I've been a professional campaigner for 15 years and I was incredibly impressed by his eloquence, manner and guts," Currie said.
"The success of the video is particularly gratifying because China did its very best to prevent pro-Tibet and human rights protesters being seen and heard during Xi's visit, including at the Guildhall. They outnumbered us 10-to-one, used drums and gongs to drown out chants and draped their enormous flags in front of Tibet flags. And then one reasonable, polite man stands up for what's right and gets this massive amount of attention. That's the power of free speech – something the Chinese government could learn more about," Currie added.
Chinese President protested against in London
Amnesty International activists protested China's human rights record during President Xi Jinping's UK visitIBTimes UK
In a statement to Free Tibet, Powlesland said he was overwhelmed by the reception to his impassioned interjection.
"The last 24 hours have been completely unexpected, but also quite wonderful to read the comments and see the shares from people around the world who believe in the same ideals," he said.
"I just decided to say something on the spur of the moment, but the reaction to it has made me realise I should get more involved in campaigning for the things I believe in. What the reaction to this video has shown me more than anything else is quite how many people around the world believe in the same ideals of freedom, democracy and human rights for all," Powlesland added.
Cameron Xi Jinping
China's human rights record has been criticised during Xi Jinping's state visit to the UKReuters
Xi Jinping has come under criticism for his country's human rights record during his visit to the UK. Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, told IBTimes UK: "We want to make it clear to David Cameron that we expect human rights to be on agenda."
The Communist Party leader was also challenged by BBC's new political editor Laura Kuenssberg during a press conference at Number 10. "We combine the universal value of human rights with China's reality and we have found a part of human rights development suited to China's national conditions," Jinping replied.
The Chinese premier concluded his state visit to the UK on 23 October with a visit to Manchester, where the first direct flights between the city and China have been announced as part of the government's plans for creating a "northern powerhouse".