Hong Kong migrants who have lived in Canada for as long as 25 years may return to take part in the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement if the planned blockade of the city's business heart goes ahead next year.
This follows the civil-disobedience campaign's first overseas "deliberation day" in Toronto last month at which about 60 former Hong Kong residents shared their views on the city's fight for universal suffrage. Campaign organisers are also seeking support from overseas Hongkongers in other cities, including London.
"I will come back [for Occupy Central]," said Annie Fong, who moved to Canada a quarter of a century ago. "It is not for me but for Hong Kong - a place for which I have profound feelings."
The housewife-turned-activist added: "Having enjoyed the precious Canadian democratic system for so many years, I think I should support [Hong Kong's] universal suffrage fight."
A support group has been set up by Hong Kong migrants in Toronto to back the civil disobedience plan, which Occupy Central organisers say they will enact if the government fails to come up with acceptable electoral reforms, and members hope to gather overseas Hongkongers to press for true universal suffrage.
The possibility that candidates in the first chief executive election under universal suffrage in 2017 could be screened to ensure they are acceptable to Beijing has caught the attention of the overseas campaigners.
Eric Li, who has lived in Canada for 34 years, said such a mechanism would be viewed as unacceptable in a democratic country like his adopted home.
"People can join the race as long as they pay a nomination filing fee of C$200 [HK$1,460]. There is no restriction," he said. "I just don't understand why [Beijing and the Hong Kong government] have to impose screening. They have to believe that Hongkongers have the wisdom and ability to choose a chief executive via one-man, one-vote."
Mannie Lin, a key member of the support group, said they planned to promote Occupy Central in other Canadian and American cities and hoped Hong Kong migrants around the world would set up similar groups.
"We want to raise the awareness of overseas Hongkongers on the city's political reform battle," said Lin, who recently visited Hong Kong to meet Occupy Central founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting. He added that mainland Chinese residents of Toronto had also shown interest.
Tai said that he was "really touched" that Hong Kong migrants still cared about the city.
Tai, an associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, said the "Toronto model" had set a good example for overseas Hongkongers to support the movement. He said he was in touch with Hong Kong students in London and hoped more Hongkongers outside the city would join the movement's third deliberation day early next year.