Police called in as groups of pro-Hong Kong, China protesters clash in Toronto – CBC.ca

Police called in as groups of pro-Hong Kong, China protesters clash in Toronto - CBC.ca
Toronto march in support of Hong Kong protests blocked by pro-China group
Police were called in to help maintain order as scores of protesters gathered in Toronto Saturday in support of Hong Kong's months-long, citywide uprising calling for democratic reform.

Gloria Fung, president of Canada-Hong Kong Link, says her group joined with Toronto Hong Kongers Alliance to organize a march outside Toronto's Old City Hall.

“(Violence is) not acceptable,” John said, referring to clashes between police and protesters last weekend. “We call on the Hong Kong government to respond to the protesters and also we want to call on the Canadian government to provide more support to Hong Kong.”

Fung said they did not expect pro-China protesters to show up as well. She accused them of "intimidation" and "harassment."

Tempers flared and tensions ran high as the two sides tried to drown out each other with shouts of  "One China" and "Hong Kong belongs to China" coming from the pro-China group.

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"We have got the police permit to launch a peaceful march, however, before we could go out to start a march, we noticed that there's a very well-orchestrated counter-rally here by the pro-China camp," Fung told CBC News.

Some supporters of the protest movement may have been saving their energy for Sunday, when organizers are hoping for a large turnout in Victoria Park, in the Causeway Bay district. They had applied for a permit to march from the park to the Central district, essentially the same route taken in two enormous marches in June, but police turned them down. Organizers have appealed that decision, saying it puts people in danger because many are likely to march regardless.

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The protests in Hong Kong, which have been ongoing since June, were sparked by a proposed extradition law.

Most of the protest events Saturday were peaceful and reflected the breadth and variety of the movement. The wave of demonstrations began more than two months ago to oppose a now-suspended bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China. But the movement has broadened to include other demands, including universal suffrage and an investigation of the police.

"This extradition bill, if enacted, is going to allow China to arbitrarily arrest anybody who is working, travelling, living or even in transit via Hong Kong," Fung, told CBC News at an earlier march in June.

In the densely populated Mong Kok district, protesters gathered Saturday evening outside a police station, shined laser pointers at windows and threw eggs at the officers guarding the entrance. Officers in riot gear took over nearby streets and chased some demonstrators. But the crowds had largely dispersed by 8 p.m.

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The protests in Hong Kong began as a response to a now-suspended bill that would have allowed Hong Kong citizens to be sent to China for trial and have now grown to include demands for greater democracy, release of arrested protesters, investigations into allegations of police abuse of force and for the region's chief executive (who is elected by Hong Kong's electoral college before the appointment is signed off on by the Chinese government) to step down.

A Toronto march organized in support of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong was prevented from going forward on Saturday after a clash with counter demonstrators.

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A few hundred people gathered outside Old City Hall on Saturday afternoon with the intention of marching around the Eaton Centre in solidarity with protestors in Hong Kong, who are in their 10th week of advocating for an extradition bill to be withdrawn.

The bill would allow residents to be extradited from Hong Kong to China, something protestors say could heighten risk for activists and those critical of China.

For weeks, hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents have been filling the streets in protest of a local government they believe has become too friendly with Beijing, and what they see as the Chinese government's attempt to strip the people of Hong Kong of their political autonomy and freedoms.

Protestors are also calling for the resignation of Hong Kongs leader Carrie Lam, democratic elections and an independent investigation into the polices use of force.

"We are aware of the Vancouver rallies planned for today. We have additional resources in place and we are prepared to address public safety issues should they arise. We will continue to monitor the gatherings throughout the day," Sgt. Jason Robillard wrote in an email.

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Gloria Fung, one of the organizers of the march and president of Canada-Hong Kong Link, said that when they arrived at Old City Hall, they were met by members of a pro-China group who was chanting one China and was blocking the protesters from leaving the area.

They do not have a permit to stage this rally here, Fung told reporters. They are only here to jeopardize our freedom of expression. In Canada we show zero tolerance to this kind of intimidation and harassment.

In a back-and-forth exchange that lasted several minutes, the pro-China supporters shouted “One China” in unison, while the pro-Hong Kong supporters called out “Two systems.” Both sides claimed to love Hong Kong, and it was difficult to determine which group was shouting “We love Hong Kong” at various times.

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Fung also alleged that some volunteers and organizers had been attacked in the clash. Toronto police have confirmed that no one was physically injured.

There have been competing rallies in other countries as well. On Friday, violence broke out at a rally in Melbourne, Australia when pro-China supporters arrived at a rally planned in solidarity with protesters in Hong Kong. Videos posted on social media showed people pushing each other before being separated by police.

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CTV News Toronto tried to speak to pro-China protestors, but many would not speak to on camera. One man said that reporters and civilians were being attacked by protestors in Hong Kong.

A political expression permit issued to the pro-China group Friday by the City of Vancouver said the protesters must comply with city bylaws and in no way “jeopardize the safety and comfort of others.” The protest cannot block building entrances or the “free movement of pedestrians.”

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Video from the rally shows the two groups yelling at each other while waving flags and holding signs that say we are not rioters and withdraw the extradition bill.

Hong Kongs financial woes come amid broader international concerns about economic slowdown. Earlier this week, economists began to worry about the possibility of a looming global recession after new numbers showed poor industrial growth in China, an economic contraction in Germany and a particularly unsettling yield curve inversion in the U.S., which some analysts consider a recession bellwether.

Pro-China protestors chant one China across from supporters of Hong Kong chanting keep up Hong Kong. March to support HK delayed due to clashes. @CTVToronto pic.twitter.com/8EiUfoZtgx

Were under a lot of pressure at this point in terms of our economic development, Raymund Chao, the chairman for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Asia Pacific and Greater China, told CTV News. If you look at the violent activities over the last two months that weve seen in Hong Kong, its adding to that pressure.

Fung said that instead of marching, the group will remain outside Old City Hall in peaceful protest.

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This is Canada. We have the constitutional right to freedom of expression. No one can take that from all of us.

People take part in the Stop Riots in Hong Kong rally in Sydney, Australia, Aug. 17, 2019. Around 3,000 people marched peacefully through the streets of Sydney on Saturday to call for an end to the violence which has gripped Chinas Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) in recent weeks. (Xinhua/Bai Xuefei)

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Earlier in the day, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland issued a joint statement with her European Union counterpart condemning the violence in Hong Kong.

Among banners that said “Protect Hong Kong, fight against violence,” One of the groups leader Tony Jiang, who is an Australia citizen of Chinese descent, told Xinhua “We came here to stand against the violent riots and the decaying law and order in Hong Kong.”

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For the last two months, large numbers of citizens have been exercising their fundamental right of assembly. However, there has recently been a rising number of unacceptable violent incidents, with risks of further violence and instability, the statement reads.

It is crucial that restraint be exercised, violence rejected and urgent steps taken to de-escalate the situation.