A group of Winnipeggers originally from Hong Kong gathered Saturday to support freedom in the semi-autonomous metropolis after China’s government proposed a bill to crackdown on pro-democracy protests earlier this week.
Widespread protests in the city of 7.4 million people have lasted nearly a year, following a now-axed proposal that would have allowed the extradition of Hong Kong citizens to mainland China for alleged criminal activity.
“My roots are still in Hong Kong, every time I saw the Hong Kong news, I feel the same with the Hong Kong people — I still have family back there, friends, a lot of good friends who (are) part of this movement fighting for freedom,” said Brian Cheung, who helped organize the demonstration in front of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.
“You can see in Hong Kong there’s one million, two million people on the street protesting and asking for something that’s a basic right.”
That right is democracy, said Cheung, a 25-year-old who came to Winnipeg to study seven years ago.
Amid the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests, which began after the proposed reforms to Hong Kong’s electoral system, Cheung and other University of Manitoba international students organized Winnipeg Hong Kong Concern to discuss developments in their home city as the Chinese government increased its influence.
The more recent protests fired up the group again.
“We really hope a bunch of people in Winnipeg can do some effort to support our friends and family in Hong Kong,” Cheung said.
About 25 other people joined the rally, most of whom are originally from Hong Kong. Some protestors were willing to speak with media under the condition their full, legal names not be used out of fear of the Chinese Communist Party and for their families’ safety in Hong Kong.
Thirty-one-year-old Agnis Lau had already planned to move to Winnipeg last year, but the widespread 2019 protests helped her out of the door.
Agnis Lau is an alias.
“It’s really sad to see Hong Kong has turned out like this, every day I read the news, I saw the people being beaten by the police, I cry every day,” Lau said. “It’s really, really bad — all we did was cry for our freedom, which we had originally. Why is China taking it away?”
She’s afraid for the future of the city and for her loved ones who still live there.
“We don’t want to die, we want Hong Kong to survive as a free city, and I hope anyone who died for the protests in the past year will have justice.”
Twenty-six-year-old Jacky, who would not give his surname to protect his Hong Kong family’s identity, is glad to be Canadian — but wants Hong Kong to have the freedoms enshrined in Canadian law.
“This is who we are as Canadians, we fight for people, that’s how we as Canadians, as a strong country, we stand up for the weak … and we help them,” said Jacky, clad in a surgical mask and mirrored sunglasses.
“This is the biggest threat to democracy in Hong Kong,” he said of the proposed national security law and growing Chinese influence. “I’m not even sure if I can say democracy in Hong Kong because we might not even have one in the future. My friends, my family, the next generation, I’m trying to stand up for them because that’s a price we can’t pay.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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