- Free Hong Kong MTL, a group sympathetic to the protest movement in Hong Kong, says that they were barred from participating in the Montreal Pride Parade due to threats of violence.
- The group has outlined their experience and shred personal stories with MTL Blog.
- One member of the group alleges that Montreal Pride did not do enough to protect participants.
The threat of "sabotage" prompted Pride Parade organizers to tell LGBTQ members of the group Action Free Hong Kong MTL that they were barred from marching in the Montreal Pride Parade on August 18.
They received notice only a day before the parade due to a Montreal police (SPVM) report that "advised Pride to remove the Hong Kongers from the procession for security reasons, citing the 'potential attempt to sabotage the parade by pro-Communists,'" according to Henry Lam, a member of FreeHKMTL.
The group claims that "this was the 6th disrupted event held by HK-Canadian alliances within Canada, following the rallies in Toronto, Calgary, Winnipeg, Halifax, and Vancouver." What they didn't expect, however, was Pride Montreal banning them from attending the Parade.
In a statement, FreeHKMTL says that while they understand the SPVM's concerns for public safety, they "could not help being saddened and disappointed that civil rights must yield to such threats."
"Such blatant threats have reached an alarming level worldwide, to the extent that many voices sympathetic to the HK cause could end up being silenced," says Henry Lam.
Fierté Montréal organizers told MTL Blog that they received threats of "sabotage" and removed FreeHKMTL due to public safety reasons and a commitment to not "interfere in geopolitical conflicts."
But Lam insists that FreeHKMTL's participation in the parade was meant to be "non-political."*
"The Parade is an extremely important day for all people of sexual and gender diversity and it is with the objective that all can walk safely that this decision was taken," according to their spokesperson.
The SPVM was also apparently warned of potential disruptions a few days before the event though they didn't respond to our request for comment.
FreeHKMTL alleges that pro-communist Chinese supporters attended the Pride Parade "scouting for Hong Kong participants" and marched along the route.
"Around 100 people in red holding flags of China and singing the Chinese national anthem" rallied at FreeHKMTL's meetup spot and marched along the parade and then dispersed near Chinatown.
Lam says that, "not only did Montreal Pride fail to protect parade participants, but their decision was also encouraging Chinese saboteurs to continue to suppress freedom of speech in Canada."
There have been ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong for the past few months against a proposed extradition agreement that, if enacted, would allow Chinese authorities to extradite people in Hong Kong who have been accused of crimes on mainland China.
Protesters worry that if the law is put into place, it will allow China to have de-facto administrative control over Hong Kong citizens' rights.
Demonstrations have continued to escalate in the past few weeks, recently culminating in confrontations between activists, police authorities, and criminal groups.
Another alleged incident occurred at the Pride Parade between a member of Gay Harmony, a Hong Kong-based LGBTQ group, members of the Liberal Party, and pro-communist Chinese demonstrators.
Pride organizers did not confirm this incident.
The founder of Gay Harmony, Francis Tang, was invited to march in the Pride Parade and, according to FreeHKMTL found himself isolated, ashamed, and abandoned by the community.
Walking next to a group of Liberal Party representatives, Tang was asked to "not walk with them" because he was holding a Pride flag displaying the message "Hong Kong Pride Parade" in both English and Chinese.
He was then followed by a large group of pro-communist demonstrators. Feeling unsafe, he rolled up his flag and ran away from the parade. No one came to his assistance or supported him throughout the ordeal, FreeHKMTL alleges.
In response to this alleged incident, FreeHKMTL states that "pro-Beijing nationalists seem to have a carte blanche in Canada, oppressing rights entitled by all Canadians wherever they want."
FreeHKMTL cannot deny their disappointment and frustrations with Montreal Pride organizers but say they will "keep fighting and figuring out a way to express themselves safely in a law-abiding and respectful manner."
One member remarked that "in Hong Kong, we were suppressed as LGBT members; now in an LGBT event in Canada, we are suppressed as Hongkongers."
*This article has been updated.