Junior barrister becomes global hero after hopping off bike to challenge China supporters on human rights

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By Alex Aldridge on

Facebook goes wild for impromptu speech delivered by Ely Place rookie en route to work


A junior land law barrister at Ely Place Chambers has become a global human rights hero in the most unlikely of manners.

Paul Powlesland, 29, was cycling back to chambers from court last week when he spotted a large group of supporters of Chinese president Xi Jinping who had gathered in the City of London to celebrate his visit to the UK.

A fervent backer of human rights, the Cambridge-educated rookie barrister decided on the spur of the moment to speak to the group.

So he pulled over, hopped off his bike and asked:

You’ve come here to express your right, your freedom of speech. Do you think that right should be extended to everyone, all around the world — in Tibet, in Beijing, everywhere?

A member of the Free Tibet protest group happened to be at the scene, who filmed Powlesland’s various questions, and uploaded the exchange to Facebook where it has had over 600,000 views.

City cyclist takes on pro-China demonstrators

Watch this London cyclist's brilliant spontaneous challenge to pro-China demonstrators in London. #humanrights (skip ahead to 24 seconds).Find out more about the video and the mystery man here http://freetibet.org/news-media/na/half-million-watch-lone-cyclist-stand-freedom

Posted by Free Tibet on Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Powlesland subsequently identified himself in a comment under the video on the Facebook page.


In the clip, Powlesland goes on to label China supremo Xi as “one of the greatest abusers of human rights in the world”, continuing:

So many English people are frankly disgusted at the welcome your president has got in our country, that our prime minister will roll over and frankly do everything your president tells him for money.

The video has apparently proven particularly popular in Hong Kong, where Powlesland has been nicknamed “Cool bike boy”. In the comments on Facebook, he has won praise for his measured, lawyerly style, which has been feted for being “civil, [but] not abusive”.