With tensions simmering in Hong Kong, people in Canada who have connections there are watching nervously as pro-democracy protesters take to the streets to resist what they fear is the tightening grip of the Chinese government.
Canada is home to thousands of people of Hong Kong descent, with some expressing feeling helpless as they watch police and protesters clash.
“That’s not the Hong Kong that we grew up with,” said Mimi Lee in Toronto.
“Police should be protecting citizens and now they are not. People are actually scared when they see the police come in. How can you imagine any society can live their lives with that kind of situation?”
‘Tried to stay away from police’
CBC Toronto spoke to one man, agreeing not to identify him over concerns for his safety, who has also been organizing shows of support in Toronto.
“I tried to stay away from police as much as possible, at least 100 metres away, because I was afraid,” he said. “A lot of times, I think they’re hurting people on purpose.”
The protests were sparked by the Hong Kong government’s efforts to push through an extradition bill.
The city government has suspended that legislation, but demonstrators pushing for the full revocation of the bill converged Monday on Hong Kong’s international airport, where flights were cancelled for a second day on Tuesday.
The central government responded, characterizing the protest movement as something approaching “terrorism” that poses an “existential threat” to the local citizenry, worrying many observers who believe those comments are a sign Beijing could be laying the groundwork for a much more violent crackdown.
Not all in Canada supportive
But shutting down the airport is a step protesters had to take, says Kevin, to make their voices heard.
The protesters’ demands are five-fold, he said: repeal the extradition bill, drop charges against protesters, stop classifying the demonstrators as rioters, universal suffrage and an independent investigation into the police.
But as much as there is a show of solidarity, not all people in Canada who have Hong Kong ties are supportive.
The Toronto man who spoke to CBC News noticed that too, saying older or more well-off people from Hong Kong can be less supportive.
“They think the protest is actually ruining Hong Kong instead of fighting for their future. It’s kind of sad actually.”
‘A peaceful message’
Now that he’s back home, Kevin is working with other Hong Kongers to organize demonstrations here, including a solidarity march in Toronto over the weekend.
It’s not lost on Kevin that he has the freedom to demonstrate here. His family back home has been reminding him of that, he said, especially lately.
“I mean, they all tell me that I’m very lucky that I moved to Canada. A lot of them, a lot of my friends, are actually asking how to apply for immigration.”