Richmond's Hong Kong immigrants voice concerns about the extradition bill protest

A group of Richmondites originally from Hong Kong held a panel discussion at a local restaurant earlier this week to express opposition over the extradition bill currently being introduced in the region.

The panel also urged the Canadian government to protect the safety of Canadian immigrants in Hong Kong.

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On Wednesday, a throng of protestors in Hong Kong was attacked by tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray after surrounding government headquarters.

They did so with the goal of postponing the debate over the bill that would allow Hong Kong citizens to be extradited to Mainland China to face charges. The chief executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, is determined to pass the legislation despite the rally.

Richmond city councillor Chak Au, who moved from Hong Kong to Canada 31 years ago, hopes that the Hong Kong government will learn from Canada’s democratic system and do the right thing for its people.

"As a city councillor, I tried to compare Hong Kong to Richmond... If 30,000 people in Richmond protest against the city's regulations, we, as a democratic government would listen to people, open the public consultation and come up with acceptable solutions, but we don't see that happen in Hong Kong," said Au.

"My colleagues asked me what's happening in Hong Kon. The whole world is watching Hong Kong. The government should do whatever it can to solve the confrontation. I would like them to be rational, responsible, and caring to its citizens."

Other speakers on the panel condemned the excessive use of violence against protestors.

"Using rubber bullets and tear gas (to control residents) was needless, and the police were even spotted using force against reporters, causing harm to media staff," said Victor Ho, a long-time resident in Richmond and former editor of the local Chinese newspaper Sing Tao.

When China took over Hong Kong from Britain in 1997, Hong Kong was supposed to retain its own social, legal, and political system for 50 years under the "one country, two systems" framework. Some critics, however, claim that the extradition legislation exerts influence from the communist party on Hong Kong’s government.

"The legislation would turn Hong Kong into a place like other cities in China, and the residents who are critical of the Chinese government would face the risk of being trapped in China,” added Ho, “Once the bill gets passed, the one country, two systems principle would become a lie."

There are estimated to be as many as 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong, according to a 2011 report released by the Asia Pacific Foundation.

Richard Lee, former BC Liberal MLA for Burnaby North, is worried that if the legislation gets passed, all Canadians currently residing in Hong Kong will be affected.

"Two Canadians have been detained in China for more than six months; the legal system in China is quite different from Hong Kong and Canada,” said Lee, “Many judges and lawyers in Hong Kong are concerned that the amendment would destroy the legal system in Hong Kong."

Lee added that, with permission from the other panel speakers, he will send a joint letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland to request for further actions from the government to protect Canadians in Hong Kong.

There is a concern that if the extradition bill passes, Richmond and the rest of Canada could see an immigration wave similar to one of the early nineties immediately preceding the transfer of sovereignty to China from the U.K.

The Hong Kong government may pause the extradition bill in the face of more mass protests, according to the latest news from the South China Morning Post.  

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