Canada

Vancouver protesters join global demonstration in support of Hong Kong

Vancouver was one of at least 50 cities that joined a global campaign taking part in 21 countries around the world.

Rally in support on Kong Kong protesters outside Vancouver Art Gallery

Protesters gathered outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Saturday carrying signs listing reasons Hong Kongers can be — and have been — arrested under a controversial national security law pushed by Beijing that passed into law in 2020.

“Hong Kongers can be arrested for running in an election,” one sign read. “For having a laser pointer in their bag,” read another. “For having a water bottle,” read a third.

The bright yellow signs were carried by more than 100 black-clad protesters, lined up in neat rows in the northern plaza of the gallery, while an audio mashup of statements of solidarity for Hong Kong played in English and Cantonese.

The idea for the signs came from the demonstrators themselves, said Jody Chan, director of advocacy and governmental affairs for Alliance Canada Hong Kong.

She said the text on the signs was based on actual cases in which someone in Hong Kong was arrested under last year’s national security law.

“We voted on what we were going to hold up and everyone just gravitated towards showing how just having a water bottle in your bag or even wearing black… can get you arrested,” Chan said.

More than 100 people stage a protest at the Vancouver Art Gallery Saturday commemorating the two-year anniversary of the protests in Hong Kong.
More than 100 people stage a protest at the Vancouver Art Gallery Saturday commemorating the two-year anniversary of the protests in Hong Kong. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

The event marked the launch of “Hong Kong Be Water 2021” a global campaign to commemorate the second anniversary of the 2019 protests in Hong Kong, when tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest an extradition bill that could have seen Hong Kongers face trial in Mainland China. Following a police response that included officers in riot gear using tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and batons, the protests expanded to include calls for an inquiry into police use of force, the resignation of Hong Kong’s chief executive, and for the implementation of universal suffrage.

Chan called the 2019 protests an “awakening” for Hong Kongers. She said the national security law pushed by Beijing was “just an authoritarian state recolonizing Hong Kong,” and that the law created “a fear of silence” among city residents.

More than 100 people stage a protest at the Vancouver Art Gallery Saturday, June 12, 2021 commemorating the two-year anniversary of the protests in Hong Kong.
More than 100 people stage a protest at the Vancouver Art Gallery Saturday, June 12, 2021 commemorating the two-year anniversary of the protests in Hong Kong. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

The organizers have called on the Canadian government to impose sanctions against human rights offenders in Hong Kong and China, and to tackle “foreign influence and interference” in Canada from authoritarian states like China. But for ordinary Canadians, Chan said education and awareness are the most important things.

She said people in Hong Kong are “being suppressed by the Chinese state,” calling it a replication of the government’s model in Tibet and elsewhere.

“We’re fighting for our freedoms, our culture, our identity and values,” she said. “And we hope that one day Hong Kong will be free.”

A statue of on display at a rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on June 12, 2021.
A statue of on display at a rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on June 12, 2021. Photo by Nathan Griffiths /PNG

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