A group of activists is calling on the Canadian government to do more to protect Hong Kong and take a harder stance on China.
On Sunday, members of the Victoria BC Hong Kongers group will rally out front of the BC Legislature building at 1 p.m. in an effort to raise attention to the issues facing residents of Hong Kong. The group wants to see the government offer a pathway to safety for Hong Kongers at risk of political persecution and sanction Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for violating human rights.
The rally is one of eight rallies similar rallies scheduled to take place across Canada today.
“We want the Canadian government to provide protection to Hong Kongers at any risk of political persecution. We’re seeing a lot of people being arrested and of course that sets a chilling effect on the population,” said Solomon Freiman of the Victoria BC Hong Kongers group.
In July, Beijing imposed what it calls “New Security Laws,” which Freiman says are draconian and suppresses the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents, which includes roughly 300,000 Canadian citizens.
“It’s quite draconian. It seeks to push actions forward to suppress freedoms and rights in Hong Kong specifically,” said Freiman. “Essentially, [the laws] override decisions by the Hong Kong government on sensitive national security matters. In [the Chinese government’s] own words, these are acts of succession, diversion, terrorism, or collusion with foreign or external forces. So, it leaves a lot of interpretation to anyone exercising these laws.”
Since the laws were implemented in early July, Freiman says there has been a mass arrest of social activists. Recently, Jimmy Lai, a pro-democracy activist, and owner of Hong Kong-based newspaper Apple Daily was arrested by officials citing violation of the new security laws.
Hong Kong residents are not the only ones at risk, according to Freiman. He said the laws claim extraterritorial jurisdiction over any person anywhere in the world, which means any person anywhere is at risk of violating the laws.
“Everything in this law is international in scope. So, regardless of whether it is people’s relatives in Hong Kong or people even in Canada that might want to go back one day, whether those crimes were committed in Hong Kong or elsewhere, everyone is culpable,” Freiman said, adding that the law is also being applied retroactively.
Freiman said based on conversations with those on Vancouver Island with personal ties to Hong Kong, people are concerned and worried about their families in Hong Kong and the future of the semi-autonomous region.
“People are worried,” he said.
Hong Kong was a British colony until it was handed back to China in 1997 on the condition that the Communist country would allow it to remain democratic and free for 50 years.