More than a hundred Hong Kong Canadians marched on the Chinese consulate in Vancouver Sunday to protest a proposed extradition law expected to be introduced to their homeland’s legislature later this week.
The controversial law would allow people to be extradited from the semi-autonomous Chinese territory to mainland China to face charges.
The Vancouver protest was staged in solidarity with a massive demonstration in central Hong Kong, which police estimated at 240,000 people but ballooned to more than one million, according to organizers.
WATCH: Hundreds of thousands protest in Hong Kong against proposed Chinese extradition laws
Shouting “democracy for Hong Kong,” the protesters in Vancouver said many of their family members live in Hong Kong and are worried about their future.
“It’s good to see so many young people standing up for Hong Kong,” Stephen Chan said about the protests there. “People are losing their hopes for a positive future, and this was an opportunity for them to say ‘enough is enough.’
“We want to protect our home and our future should be in our hands.”
The Hong Kong government plans to bypass the committee process and bring the bill directly to the full legislature, with plans to pass it by the end of June.
Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, has pushed forward with the legislation despite widespread criticism from human rights and business groups, saying it’s needed to close legal loopholes.
The proposal has been widely criticized as eroding Hong Kong’s judicial independence by making it easier to send criminal suspects to mainland China, where they could face vague national security charges and unfair trials.
One speaker pointed out that while Canada’s legal system presumes innocence before a suspect is found guilty, that won’t be the case under the proposed law.
“In Hong Kong and China, once the extradition law is passed, I’m afraid all our suspects will be criminals,” he said.
WATCH: (Aired Jan. 1) Thousands march in Hong Kong against China ‘suppression’
According to the most recently released Canadian census data from 2016, roughly 72,000 Vancouver residents identify as immigrants from Hong Kong.
Mabel Tung, chair of the Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement, said the community wanted to show its strength and solidarity.
“This law won’t just affect Hong Kong people,” she said. “The millions of Hong Kong people in Canada and around the world will also be affected. We want to ensure our autonomy from the Chinese Communist Party.”
Hong Kong won the right to its own social, legal and political systems for 50 years after it was transferred from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
However, China’s ruling Communist Party has been seen as increasingly reneging on that agreement by forcing through unpopular legal changes.
Hong Kong currently limits extraditions to jurisdictions with which it has existing extradition agreements or to others on an individual basis under a law passed before 1997.
China was excluded because of concerns over its poor record on legal independence and human rights. Mainland authorities also have a recent track record of going after opponents with dubious accusations, including tax evasion.
Hong Kong’s Legislative Council plans to vote on the bill on Wednesday.
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