For privacy and safety reasons, the identity of this guest contribution from a Canadian citizen currently living in Hong Kong has been withheld from this article.
I was one year old when the Tiananmen Square Massacre happened on June 4, 1989. My mom would often remind me how she and dad carried me in their arms as they took to the streets of their then-home Hong Kong to show their staunch solidarity with the students protesters in Beijing.
At the time, especially after the deadly conclusion to the Tiananmen protests, Hong Kongers were gripped with fear over what would happen to Hong Kong after the handover in 1997.
The Sino-British Joint Declaration was only formally signed four years prior to the events of Tiananmen, so as Hong Kongers witnessed the crackdown, there was a ticking timer of growing fear of the day that Hong Kong would be a part of China again.
That event would forever change my life, along with many other Hong Kong families. We all made the difficult decisions to leave our home and migrate elsewhere to ensure we lived in a free and safe society.
My family migrated to Vancouver in 1994.
While growing up in Canada, I learned and embodied Canadian values like human rights and multiculturalism.
As I learned the value of human rights in Canada, I not only came to appreciate its value, but also the importance of safeguarding it for everyone.
Then in 2014, the Umbrella Movement happened in Hong Kong. Despite how much I wanted to be on the ground to support the fight for democracy, circumstances prevented me from doing so.
I regretted not being there for my place of birth, the home of my ancestors and the hub of the unique Cantonese language, culture, and identity. So I told myself I would be there the next time Hong Kong needed me.
My chance came when I relocated back to Hong Kong for work in 2018. While I told myself to bring my Canadian-ness with me, I also remembered to stand up for my city as I would if I remained in Vancouver.
With the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government attempting to pass the Extradition Bill around the 30th anniversary of massacre, many are not only reminded of the event 30 years ago, but are also alarmed by what this bill could mean to our civil liberties.
Hong Kong is not Mainland China.
The bill, if passed, allows Beijing to request the extradition of anyone in Hong Kong, while long-independent Hong Kong courts will have very limited means to oppose.
For the pre-millennial generations, they are reminded of the past when they marched 30 years ago.
For newer generations including millennials, we are facing our future.
Despite the bill being highly unpopular amongst the public, which led to the million-people march on June 9, the government ignored our voices and pushed on.
I remembered arriving at the starting point of the march wearing the wrong colour because I did not get the memo that the dress code is white. I was then trapped in the massive crowd, getting sun-baked in 30 degrees for two hours without moving, before finally arriving at the finish point at 10 pm, which was eight hours after I began my participation, only to hear the news of the government’s disregard of the overwhelming visible public opposition.
To us, this initial dismissal of the opposition was another sign of a failing government with sinking accountability and zero concern for the public. This behaviour from the government only triggered the protest on June 12, which was a day of pain and confirmed fears as our very own city police force unloaded rubber bullets, pepper spray, and tear gas into peaceful citizens who had surrounded the government buildings.
I was on the ground on that very day and remembered hearing a police officer in riot gear taunting our crowd as she ordered her colleague to video-record the face of a particular protestor.
Her taunts and threats implied she hoped to identify and arrest that protestor at the earliest opportunity.
Many of the protestors are millennials, and we were taught by our parents since childhood that the police represented righteousness, as they were highly regarded for their professionalism back during the 1990s.
On that very day, we witnessed neither the professionalism nor the humanity of the police Hong Kongers once loved.
As the battle between both sides continue, there were no winners, only losers.
Hong Kongers’ worst fears had finally come true: we now have a government determined to benefit Beijing’s authoritarian rule and strategy of national conformity in the expense of Hong Kongers’ civil liberties. They have ignored the voices of the people and permitted excessive force to suppress the protests.
On June 4, 1989, protestors were shot in Beijing. On June 12, just over 30 years later, protestors were shot in Hong Kong.
This is why we commemorated on June 4, marched on June 9, protested on June 12, and demonstrated again on June 16. And we will keep safeguarding our city.
As we approach July 1, please do not forget us. This day marks the birth of Canada, but also the beginning of the end for life as we know it in Hong Kong, when the city was handed over back to China.
On this day, while Canadians will be marching to celebrate for the love of what it means to be Canadian, including the appreciation of our Canadian freedoms and rights, Hong Kongers will be marching — lamenting the theft of Hong Kong’s freedoms.