The lobby group, Canada-Hong Kong Link led thousands of people in protest on Sunday against a new law critics fear could lead to China targeting political opponents in Hong Kong.
The extradition bill has been criticized as eroding Hong Kong’s judicial independence by making it easier to send criminal suspects to mainland China, where they could face vague national security charges and unfair trials.
“This extradition bill, if enacted, is going to allow China to arbitrarily arrest anybody who is working, travelling, living or even in transit via Hong Kong,” Gloria Fung, the group’s president, told CBC Toronto.
“It’s going to jeopardize the security and interests, not just the citizens of Hong Kong but also the citizens of all countries, and therefore, we Canadians do care about the development. This is particularly the case when we have more than 300,000 Canadians living and working in Hong Kong.”
Protestors gathered at the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, from where they marched to the Consulate General of People’s Republic of China at 240 St. George Street.
The Toronto march coincides with a massive protest in Hong Kong which organizers say had one million people taking part.
Fung said, given to risk posed to Canadians both at home as well as in Hong Kong, they “strongly feel that our Canadian government is obliged to say no to this extradition bill.”
Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, has pushed forward with the legislation despite widespread criticism from human rights and business groups.
Mira Chow was one of hundreds of youths who took part in the Toronto protest.
She says of the things the new law would do is to take away the freedom of speech citizens now enjoy.
“We’re trying to prevent that from happening because we feel like freedom of speech is really an important value in Hong Kong,” Chow told CBC Toronto.
“If they strip that away, it will make us be homogenous to the rest of China which is what we’re trying to prevent.”
Wendy Wong, a professor in the Department of Design at York University, designed the posters for today’s protest saying they depict what she wants China to hear, “like freedom from fear.”
“This now is making everyone, people from all walks of life in Hong Kong, really afraid, because they basically have no rule of law,” Wong told CBC Toronto.
“China, we all know, they have a very poor reputation and they don’t have rule of law in China and you can be accused for anything. China asked Hong Kong people to trust them, be we all know this is a joke to trust China.”
Meanwhile, the Canada-Hong Kong Link president said that in the recent years, she has witnessed a very rapid deterioration of the freedom of expression, the rule of law as well as democracy and human rights in Hong Kong.
“If this extradition bill is passed, it’s going to synchronize the laws in Hong Kong with that in China. That means there will be a regression in the rule of law in Hong Kong. And it’s going to significantly ruin the international reputation of Hong Kong as the financial centre in the Far East,” Fung said.
Hong Kong officials have said Hong Kong courts will have the final say over whether to grant extradition requests from China, and suspects accused of political and religious crimes will not be extradited.