Demonstrators took to the streets of Vancouver on Canada Day to protest what’s happening in China.
Protesters marched from downtown Vancouver to the front of the Chinese consulate, condemning China’s new security law and the continued detainment of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in the diplomatic standoff involving Meng Wanzhou.
The sweeping new Chinese security law that critics warn will dismantle the last vestiges of Hong Kong’s autonomy came into effect Wednesday in what one Chinese official called a “birthday gift” for the city.
The contentious new bill criminalizes dissent and criticism of the Chinese regime, including from those abroad, and came into effect on the anniversary of the former British colony’s 1997 handover to China.
“I am so proud to be Canadian but today; I stand here with a heaviness, with a sadness in my heart,” Jenny Kwan, MP for Vancouver East, said at the rally. “Why? Because yesterday the National Security law was passed by China.”
For Canadians with family in Hong Kong, the crackdowns already taking place on the law’s first day are driving home the reality that exercising the freedoms they have here in the hope of helping those still in Hong Kong might mean they themselves can never go back — or that their families could face risk.
“Even now, we don’t know what is constituted as national security,” Kwan said. “What is a breach of national security? With the exception of some vague language contained within it.
“And the reality is this, a protest like this, where we gather to express our points of view, where we gather to stand, to criticize a government’s point of view, if this were to happen in Hong Kong and we know this is happening in Hong Kong, some 400 people have been arrested. Holding a sign that might be deemed to be critical of the government could land you in jail.”
Julian Braithwaite, the U.K.’s ambassador to the United Nations, issued on Tuesday a joint declaration signed by 27 countries, including Canada, that condemned the implementation of the law.
“Making such a law without the direct participation of Hong Kong’s people, legislature or judiciary of Hong Kong undermines ‘one country, two systems,’” he said in the declaration.
“We urge the Chinese and Hong Kong governments to reconsider the imposition of this legislation and to engage Hong Kong’s people, institutions and judiciary to prevent further erosion of the rights and freedoms that the people of Hong Kong have enjoyed for many years.”
-with files from Amanda Connolly, Global News