Offering Solidarity for Hong Kong from Afar

Protesters in Montreal Join Calls for Democracy in Chinese Administrative Region

Around 300 people gathered on the corner of Milton St. and University St. on China’s national holiday, Oct. 1, to display their “Solidarity with Hong Kong.”

The grassroots event was organized by Michael Law, Ailisha Macharia, Elliot Tan and Cathy Wong, who describe themselves on Facebook as students from the Hong Kong administrative region and “allies of democracy and human rights.”

Law spoke to the crowd of Chinese police departments’ response to the student protests. He said they used pepper spray, tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters.

He added that he believed both authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing would attempt to “wait it out,” but feared a repeat of Tiananmen Square in 1989 if the Chinese military becomes involved. Then, the Chinese military crushed the student movement and forced protesters to leave the square amid scores of deaths.

The people of Hong Kong, he said, want “genuine democracy outside of the 20 per cent of the world’s population that is controlled by 800 unelected politicians in Beijing.”

Not everyone shares the enthusiasm of the protestors in Hong Kong.

Dave, a businessman in Montreal, thinks the protests will fizzle out due to the fact that the “puppets in Hong Kong cannot control their puppet masters, who do not want real change,” he said.

Alex Liu, a North American representative for the pro-democracy Black Island Nation Youth Front, spoke of how people “should have courage to revolt against a self-compromising government.”

The autonomy of Hong Kong was promised, Liu said, but “has not been delivered, after the People’s Congress’ rejection of true universal suffrage in 2004.”

“Instead, in its place, we have a new colonial system,” he said. “This is the time to stand up against an unjust system, to overthrow it. Should we live with our knees on the ground or should we stand up like men?”

Vincent Tao, a member of anti-deportation activist group No One Is Illegal Montreal, told the crowd to stand against the state’s use of violence in downtown Hong Kong.

He said he had never missed home until recent events and dreaded to hear of the consequences of police brutality, praying for the avoidance of another Tiananmen Square.

“Sadly, we have come to expect that if people occupy financial centres, they will meet the wrath of the coercive arm of the state apparatus,” Tao said. “The Western media has distorted the image of the protests, painted with a nostalgia for British colonial rule.”

He shed light on inequalities in wealth in Hong Kong that ought to have a much greater role in this discourse.

“Will universal suffrage be extended to foreign workers who make up 10 per cent of Hong Kong’s population? What is at stake in Hong Kong? Should it just be for the affluent, business class?” he asked.

One member of the crowd to take the microphone, Kevin Cheung, said Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement would only achieve its goals through peaceful means, highlighting the fact that the uprisings are the first time since the SARS outbreak from 2002 to 2004 that the Chinese people had come together for a common cause.