Pro-China group blocks Toronto rally supporting Hong Kong protesters
Bryann Aguilar, CP24.com
Published Saturday, August 17, 2019 6:30PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, August 18, 2019 6:41PM EDT
Tensions were high after a pro-China group blocked a Toronto march supporting of Hong Kong protesters on Saturday afternoon, organizers say.
Hundreds of people showed up for the march, which is one of several happening across Canada, to express their solidarity with protestors in Hong Kong.
However, it was stalled on the steps of Old City Hall as pro-China demonstrators met with the group, preventing the march to move ahead.
"They are blocking our way here," said Gloria Fung, the president of Canada-Hong Kong Link. "They are chanting to intimidate us."
Fung said their group, who has police permit to have a peaceful rally, were called "rioters" by the pro-China supporters.
She also said the opposing group had allegedly harassed some of their volunteers.
A number of clashes reportedly broke out between the two groups, but Fung said organizers have tried to stop them.
"We do not encourage violence," she said.
Toronto police were present at the scene to monitor the situation.
The rally comes as another weekend of protests hit the street of Hong Kong on Saturday. Thousands of teachers have joined to show their support to the protesters, which include their students.
Protests started in early June following concerns about an extradition bill that was set to pass.
The proposed bill could see China asking the Hong Kong government to hand over anyone, foreign tourist or resident, suspected of a crime. It affects an estimated 300,000 Canadians living in Hong Kong.
"[The bill] has not been completely withdrawn," said Fung.
Fung said the bill should concern everybody as anyone who is travelling through Hong Kong could be arrested by the Chinese government.
She said their group is calling the Canadian government and the international community to speak up on the issue and call upon the Hong Kong government to stop the violence.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and her European Union counterpart issued a statement on Saturday condemning violence in Hong Kong.
The statement said that 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."
The statement prompted the spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Canada to fire back, accusing Freeland of “meddling” in internal affairs.
The spokesperson writes that “the Canadian side should be cautious on its words and deeds” when it comes to Hong Kong.
- with files from Leena Latafat, Canadian Press and Associated Press