As Canadians who lived in, and still love, Hong Kong, we want to correct a misconception that may have arisen because of the statement attributed in Canadian news reports, to Chief Executive-designate of the Special Administrative Region (SAR), Tung Chee-hwa.
It has been reported that he intends to change the SAR legislation, in order to place controls on future public demonstrations in Hong Kong.
As reported, Mr Tung was apparently drawing a parallel between that intention and the situation that exists in Canadian cities. This is a false parallel.
In Canada, a planned demonstration or march does, indeed, require a permit from the police. The point, however, is that the requirement is to alert the police to the possible need for additional traffic control, or even diversion of traffic.
It is to protect the demonstrators from traffic hazards and to reduce any physical inconvenience to the general public. It is not designed to deter demonstrations because of their political content.
To illustrate, last autumn thousands of people congregated in several cities in Ontario to support planned demonstrations protesting against various acts of the provincial government.
On a Friday and Saturday, downtown Toronto was thronged with thousands of demonstrators, all expressing their disagreement with courses being taken by the provincial government. Police were in attendance, re-routeing traffic, but there was no instance whatsoever of any police interference with the demonstrations. Under Canadian law and Toronto by-laws, the demonstrations were perfectly legal, even though their aim was to criticise important government actions.
It would be unfortunate, indeed, if well-meaning residents of Hong Kong were to be misled into thinking that in a modern democracy, the government would act in a draconian fashion out of fear of public expressions of criticism.
MAY and BRUCE PARTRIDGE Victoria British Columbia Canada