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.
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.
"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.
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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.
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in solidarity with protestors in Hong Kong, who are in their 10th week of advocating for an extradition bill to be withdrawn.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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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
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.
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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.