Tensions were high in Calgary Saturday afternoon as duelling protesters clashed at a rally as Hong Kong goes through ongoing political unrest.
About 200 people demonstrated, split almost evenly at its climax between two groups, on the corner of Crescent Road and 1st Street N.W. With yelling escalated across both sides, it didn’t take long for Calgary police to create a barricade between pro-China advocates and supporters of the Hong Kong protesters.
The local rally comes at the same time as the 11th weekend of anti-government protests in semi-autonomous Hong Kong, with some residents accusing the Communist Party-ruled Chinese government of chipping away at Hong Kong’s democratic rights.
“We want to promote peace, rights and also the rule of law, which is central to all democracies and the people of Hong Kong. This is the moment they truly need it,” said Ken Tang, a spokesperson for the Canada Save Hong Kong team that organized the Calgary rally.
“Many people across the world are compassionate and understand the struggle of Hong Kong to fight for democracy — something that is worth fighting for. We are trying to do that in the Canadian cities.”
Tang said he expected counter-protesters to attend the rally but not in such large numbers. However, he said it’s a positive sign and exactly what the purpose of democracy is.
During the late-afternoon demonstration, a clear division was seen between the two groups.
On one side, all-age supporters of the Hong Kong protesters held signs saying “Democracy for Hong Kong,” “Save our Hong Kong” and “No China Extradition” while cheering “free Hong Kong” in English and Cantonese.
Meanwhile, pro-Beijing protesters, mostly youth, waved dozens of Chinese flags while chanting “Stop Lying” and “We are Chinese, who are you” in English and Mandarin. Many of them held signs that said “Hong Kong is part of China forever.”
In contention with Tang, pro-China demonstrator Sarah Zhang said Hong Kong protesters are unfairly representing the reality of China-Hong Kong relations.
“For me, it’s really important that I come here and raise my voice because I feel like a lot of our voices are being drowned out by voices that aren’t true or they’re one-sided,” she said.
“I’m talking about the protesters. By all means, everybody has a right to protest. It is a free country, but I do think that they are blinding the media. It is very one-sided, so I think it’s important for us to come out and show that there are two sides to the story.”
Alongside Zhang, Yuan Lyu said, ‘I just want the world to see the truth, which is that Hong Kong is part of China. The attempt to separate Hong Kong will fail. It is against the direction of history. It’s against the will of the (world’s) people. It is against peace.”
Heated demonstrations, like the one in Calgary, have been happening at protests across the globe between opposing parties. However, unlike the relatively peaceful nature of the local rally, increasingly violent clashes between police and protesters in Hong kong have plunged the city into turmoil.
Shirley, who asked to only use her first name for fear of repercussions because she lives in China, said she doesn’t agree with the method of Hong Kong protesters but stands by their reasoning.
“The future is theirs. They have to fight,” she said, while visiting family in Calgary.
Tang said the Canada Save Hong Kong team joins Hong Kong protesters’ demands for the complete withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill, government’s withdrawal of the word “riot” in relation to protests, the unconditional release of arrested protesters and charges against them dropped, an independent inquiry into police behaviour, implementation of genuine universal suffrage and the government led by Chief Executive Carrie Lam to step down.
On Saturday, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freehand, in a joint statement with the European Union’s Federica Mogherini, condemned the violence in Hong Kong as tensions escalate between pro-democracy protesters and police.
The statement said both Canada and the EU support Hong Kong’s “high degree of autonomy” within China, as well as its residents’ right to peaceful assembly. But they are urging restraint in the wake of “a rising number of unacceptable violent incidents.”
Freeland and Mogherini are calling on all key stakeholders to engage in “broad-based and inclusive dialogue.”
With files from the Canadian Press
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