Convoys of Chinese patriots in Ferraris and other high-end sports cars have been revving up pro-Beijing demonstrations in Canada, home to tens of thousands of Chinese millionaire migrants.
In Vancouver, at the busy intersection of Broadway and Cambie Street, hundreds of rival demonstrators had gathered on Saturday afternoon at a major subway station.
Protester Kevin Huang Yi Shuen, who supported the Hong Kong camp, watched as the sports cars repeatedly buzzed the protest scene. He said the scene was a big-money “power play” and “a way of showing force”.
One black Ferrari 458 had a Chinese flag covering its bonnet, while the passenger waved another on a three-metre flagpole. It followed a black McLaren 570 with a smaller flag hanging out the window of the driver, who covered his face with his hand.
A second group, whose cars included a matt-black convertible Ferrari, drew the attention of police, who spoke to the drivers after they repeatedly honked their horns.
Huang said a police officer on a motorcycle chased after another car as it pulled away from the busy intersection, dragster style.
Huang, executive director of the non-profit Hua Foundation, which is based in Chinatown and works with Asian diaspora youth, said he doubted if the motorists did their cause any good, if the goal was to convince undecided Canadians to support the pro-China camp.
“It’s not something that I would have recommended,” he said, laughing.
Huang said the display might have impressed some supporters, but it stood out as an example of “conspicuous consumption” in a city that was undergoing a housing affordability crisis that has been blamed in part on Chinese money.
“These are people who don’t understand that narrative or the Vancouver community very well,” he said.
Nearby, a Mercedes-Benz convertible parked in a disabled spot was playing the Chinese national anthem at full volume, social media posts showed.
Huang said at least one driver got cheers from the pro-Hong Kong crowd on Broadway. They were driving a Jeep with a British Union flag flying behind it.
Meanwhile, in Toronto, a protest near the Old City Hall also attracted a line of supercar drivers waving Chinese flags and revving loudly.
“Worst Fast & Furious movie ever,” said Stephen Punwasi on Twitter, sharing a video of the scene.
Lindsay Brown, a Vancouver based community activist who was visiting Toronto, watched a white BMW M6 gun its engines on Bay Street, creating “the most unbelievable din”. The young driver pumped his fist as his passenger waved a Chinese flag.
“The mood was pretty aggressive … The [Chinese] nationalists reacted enthusiastically to the revving – you can hear them whooping and whistling in response,” she said.
Canada has attracted huge numbers of Chinese millionaires, under the now-defunct federal immigrant investor programme (IIP) and the still-running Quebec Immigrant Investor Programme (QIIP). Most participants of both schemes who stay in Canada end up living in Vancouver or Toronto. But many others leave the country after obtaining citizenship, federal data shows.
The QIIP has an annual application limit of 1,900 families, with the Chinese quota capped at 1,235.
Current figures are unavailable, but 65 per cent of the 55,000 arrivals under the QIIP from 2002 to 2012 were Chinese. When the federal IIP shut down in 2014, there was a backlog of 45,000 mainland Chinese applicants and family members in the queue, out of a worldwide total of about 60,000.
The IIP and QIIP were for many years the world’s most popular wealth migration vehicles. By 2014, about 200,000 millionaires and family members had moved to Canada under the two schemes.
Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.