It was as if the protest in Hong Kong had been airlifted into downtown Toronto.
Nearly 1,000 Torontonians took part in a solidarity march Wednesday afternoon in support of the Hong Kong protest movement. Back in Asia, protesters have been occupying roadways for days demanding the Chinese government to allow free elections of their chief executives in 2017.
The crowd at the University of Toronto, consisting mostly of students, marched from King’s College Circle on campus to the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office a few blocks away. Many held signs and chanted slogans asking for the restoration of democracy in Hong Kong and a stop to police violence against protesters.
Speakers, including Alastair Woods, the chair of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario, rallied the crowd in front of the international office.
“On behalf of 350,000 college and university students in the province of Ontario, I bring you greetings of solidarity in your struggle for democracy and justice in Hong Kong,” declared Woods in front of an applauding crowd.
Winnie Ng, a Ryerson professor and CAW-Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy also spoke.
She applauded the courageous stance of those protesting in Hong Kong and talked about why it’s important for youth to be involved.
“Students, young people, have always been at the forefront of mass social movements,” Ng told The Ryersonian. “Look at the civil rights movement, the Arab spring; and even in Canada, in Quebec where students protested for over a hundred days over tuition hikes.”
“These are models and examples of what we can learn.”
Yahay Farooq, a first-year economics student at U of T, was one of many people not of Hong Kong heritage at the event. Farooq agreed with Ng and said that activism should be even more prominent in this digital age.
“In the 21st century, students are really empowered through social media, everybody’s connected. So, it’s important to share those views and to enact those views also,” Farooq said.
“I’m here, as many other Hong Kong people, (because) we’re fighting for democracy in Hong Kong right now,” said Samuel Lee, a second-year U of T bioinformatics student and protester. “Democracy is not something that only western countries should have.”
For Ng, the march reminded her of another from the past which was also sparked by a student movement in Beijing, China.
“Twenty-five years ago, we had 30,000 Torontonians march from the AGO all the way to the Chinese consulate over what happened at Tiananmen Square,” she said.
I’m so moved,” Ng said of Wednesday’s turnout. “It’s really quite inspiring to see all these students here.”