Dozens of people dressed in black gathered in Mount Royal Park on Saturday to express solidarity with pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong.
It was one of several protests held across Canada, with similar gatherings taking place in Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto and Halifax over the weekend.
Protest organizer Grace Li said protesters came out because “Hong Kong is our roots.”
“We feel very heartbroken, because all our relatives and friends are over there,” she said. “We’re still connected to Hong Kong.”
The semi-autonomous territory has been the site of numerous demonstrations against Chinese influence for nearly two months. The protests have often turned violence, with some protesters vandalizing buildings and throwing bricks while police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets.
“(We want to show) show support to the local protesters in Hong Kong and at the same time we want to raise concern among the public in Canada, to let them notice the things ongoing in Hong Kong,” said Li.
Li said the issues facing Hong Kong, which was granted freedoms not given to Chinese citizens in the mainland since being handed over by the British in 1997, extends to all of China. The protests in Hong Kong were sparked in June by a proposed law that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China to stand trial. That legislation has since been suspended by the government, but protests have continued as Hong Kong residents call for direct elections of the territory’s leader and an investigation into alleged police brutality.
“It is not only the issue of Hong Kong, it is the issue of human rights,” said Li. “It is the issue of democracy. The thing happening in Hong Kong is we are fighting manipulation from Beijing.”
Li said it’s been difficult watching the protests from afar.
“Even from the other side of the Earth, we feel we have to do something,” she said. “We want to tell Hong Kongers all over the world, we are staying together.”
- With files from The Canadian Press