Henry Lam was looking forward to marching in Montreal Pride’s parade with a group of activists supporting the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
Lam moved from Hong Kong to Canada eight years ago in order to marry his husband; he wanted to express the solidarity that LGBTQ expatriates have for the reformers back home.
But one day before the parade, organizers barred his group because of unspecified threats from backers of China’s communist regime.
Montreal Pride told Lam it had received information from police about “a potential attempt to sabotage the parade by pro-Communists” over his group’s participation.
Several politicians were due to take part in the parade, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier François Legault.
“Given the presence of public figures … we unfortunately have to remove you from the parade for security reasons,” organizers said in an Aug. 17 email, a copy of which was provided to CBC News.
Participation by Lam’s group, Free HK MTL, had earlier been approved by Montreal Pride.
“I thought when the police received tips about the potential attack, they would just beef up the protection … and I thought that Pride would do the same,” Lam told CBC News.
“But instead they just removed us from the parade.”
In a statement, Montreal Pride confirmed it received threats and had to remove Lam’s group “for safety reasons.”
The organization added that its policy is not to interfere in geopolitical conflicts. It did not reveal the nature of the threats, nor which police force had contacted them.
Montreal police have not responded to a request for comment.
A group of people wearing red shirts waved Chinese flags and sang the Chinese national anthem near the Pride parade route.
Protests raise tensions
Free HK MTL held its own demonstration on Aug. 18, in a park near the Atwater Market, in lieu of attending Pride.
“[I had wanted] to show the people here, we as Hong Kongers, we as LGBTQ, are proud of ourselves no matter what,” Lam said of his desire to take part in the Pride Parade.
The ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong were sparked by legislation tabled in March that would have allowed residents of the territory to be extradited to mainland China.
While the bill has since been suspended, the protests have grown to include demands for more freedom. Police in Hong Kong have responded with widespread arrests.
Pro-democracy demonstrations have been held in several Canadian cities. They’ve been attended by Chinese government supporters as well.
Shouting matches between the two sides broke out at events earlier this month in Toronto and Vancouver.
Lam says he’s against the extradition bill because, among other reasons, it would affect his personal safety as an openly gay man.
Pride’s decision to exclude Lam’s group from the parade defies the notion that Pride is about inclusion and diversity, he said.
“I thought, the whole LGBTQ movement is about anti-bullying and inclusion and diversity and equality for all. I couldn’t believe this happened,” he said.