Demonstrators chant "Democracy Now" outside St. George subway station on Oct. 1.

Hong Kong protests hit home

University of Toronto students gather in support

Under grey skies and light drizzle no symbol of protest stood out more than the yellow umbrella in support of democracy in Hong Kong, China.

Hundreds of international students from Hong Kong, attending all campuses of the University of Toronto, gathered Wednesday afternoon at the downtown campus’s King’s College Circle.

Protestors donned yellow umbrellas, ribbons and signs as they assembled before their march.

The gathering was a show of support and solidarity for their friends, family and peers back home as protests continue.

University of Toronto student Colin Shem said he joined the protest to support democracy for people around the world.
University of Toronto student Collin Shem said he joined the protest to support democracy for people around the world. (Paolo Maquiraya / Toronto Observer)

Collin Shem, 23, a mechanical engineering student at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus, helped explain the meaning behind the symbols.

“The people of Hong Kong used to protest against the (use of) pepper spray since the police are using control methods and violence,” Collin said. “People used the (yellow) umbrella to overcome it.”

By extension the umbrella is a symbol of peaceful and non-violent protest in opposition to the force currently being employed by police and officials in the city as the younger generation fights for the right to control their future.

For the students the power to decide their own future is gained through democracy and the right to vote for fair representation in government. In display of that are the yellow ribbons that were handed out in King’s College Circle.

“The yellow ribbons symbolize we want true universal suffrage,” Shem said. “We don’t want fake democracy — we want real democracy.”

Yellow ribbon is the symbol for universal suffrage in the democracy movement.
Yellow ribbon is the symbol for universal suffrage in the democracy movement. (Paolo Maquiraya / Toronto Observer)

Jennifer Fowlow, 27, a permanent Hong Kong resident who now resides in Toronto, also came out to show her support in this fight for demoracy.

“I think it’s great, it’s very encouraging,” Fowlow said. “I think that the fact that this protest is peaceful, that enthusiastic, it shows the importance of everybody coming out and demonstrating that they’re not just going to allow changes to happen without some push back.”

The march for democracy started at the University of Toronto campus and moved up St. George Street.
The march for democracy started at the University of Toronto campus and moved up St. George Street. (University of Toronto student Colin Shem said he joined the protest to support democracy for people around the world.)

The problem for some is that this is pushback strikes the younger generation, who are primarily students.

“Somehow most of the older generation don’t really pay much attention to what happens in society and they just think it’ll affect the economic elements of Hong Kong,” Shem said. “But actually in the long-term consequences there will be a loss of control over the people.”

And it is these possible long-term consequences that has brought out supporters like Shem and Fowlow.

“As we all are Hong Kong people, no matter where we are or where we come from, we should (show) support for democracy,” Shem said. “Democracy is not just for Hong Kong but for people all around the world. It’s time for us to stand up.”