British Columbia

'It feels terrible … hopeless': Expats in Vancouver fearful as Hong Kong protests escalate

Many Vancouver residents with friends and family in Hong Kong are concerned for the safety of their loved ones as protests turned violent.

Some say political turmoil has caused rifts within families as well as between region's residents

A woman, whose identity CBC has agreed to keep confidential, said she fears for the safety of her family in Hong Kong. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

As protests continue in Hong Kong with civil unrest turning to violence, many families in Vancouver are left watching in fear for the safety of their loved ones in Hong Kong.

The protests began months ago after Hong Kong tried to pass an extradition bill.

It has since been dropped but many residents of the special administrative region see it as another example of mainland China encroaching on their political autonomy and freedom, and have responded with ever-growing protests.

One woman, whose name CBC has agreed to keep confidential as she fears for the safety of her family in Hong Kong, is watching it all unfold in horror.

"It's not fair. It's dangerous for all the Hong Kong people," she said.

She says the situation is at the point now where her family is considering leaving the place they love.

"It's very painful. It's not your choice, you're forced to do it in order to protect your young families," she said.

Canada's response

In a statement, the consulate general of the People's Republic of China in Vancouver defended the actions of its government and police in Hong Kong.

"The recent protests and demonstrations in Hong Kong have turned into radical violence that seriously violates the law. No responsible government will turn a blind eye to such serious violent crimes," it reads.

The violence has not gone unnoticed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"We are calling for peace, for order, for dialogue," he said Monday. 

"We certainly call on China to be very careful and very respectful in how it deals with people who have legitimate concerns in Hong Kong."

Divisive protests

Also watching from B.C. is Tim Pak. His father's side of the family lives in Hong Kong.

"It feels terrible … a little bit hopeless because I can't directly impact it by being there and taking care of family members," he said.

Pak says the political turmoil has caused a rift between not just the residents of Hong Kong, but also families, with some siding with the protestors and others with the police.

"It's just getting very difficult to talk about the issues with certain people in the family, especially between different generations," Pak said.

"We want to make sure families are staying together, especially when there's so much division, so many opinions, so much violence back home," he added.

"That's the main concern. How do we keep our families together?"

With files from Joel Ballard