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Two views of Hong Kong protests face off in Halifax


Halifax Regional Police officers maintain an obvious presence Saturday as pro-China and pro-democracy groups gather at the waterfront. Tim Arsenault - The Chronicle Herald
Police officers maintain an obvious presence Saturday as pro-China and pro-democracy groups gather at the Halifax waterfront. - Tim Arsenault - The Chronicle Herald

A small gathering to raise awareness in Halifax about the anti-government protests in Hong Kong attracted some vocal opponents Saturday.

A couple of Halifax Regional Police cruisers and three officers were on hand before the scheduled start of the assembly at 10 a.m. at the Samuel Cunard statue outside the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market.

Joshua Wong, who helped write an opinion article in Saturday’s Chronicle Herald that argued for assistance from Canada for the pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, said his group was small and well-intentioned.

“There are mainly about six or seven of us,” said Wong.

“I think for today, our main goal is to raise awareness for some Haligonians and Nova Scotians to continue to watch what is going on in Hong Kong. This is the 11th weekend.”

Wong, who has been studying at Dalhousie University and said he was most recently in the troubled Chinese special administrative region last summer, describes himself as a Haligonian, Newfoundlander and Hong Konger.

“It is our duty to stand up for Hong Kong, as a Canadian myself and as another identity, a Hong Konger. I think we all share the same values of democracy, rule of law and freedom.”

“I disagree,” said Ben Bai of Halifax, who displayed images on his phone intended to counter the notion that the events in Hong Kong were not violent.

“I can show different pictures. What they call peaceful protest is actually not true. This is what is going on in Hong Kong. ... They beat innocent people.”

Wong, who was wearing a Roots Canada T-shirt, said his activities have led to him being threatened through social media. He said his attendance Saturday was to show he is not afraid.

The pro-democracy group was dwarfed by people with a different view. Though the number of active participants fluctuated, the pro-Chinese contingent appeared to be well organized and hovered around 60 for most of the first few hours, some holding Chinese flags and handing out stickers.

Occasionally, the pro-democracy side would be engaged by supportive passersby, including a woman wearing an I (heart) HK shirt.

Police were most active keeping the small traffic circle around the statue clear. The space adjacent to the market is busy on Saturdays.

Periodically, vehicles would make the loop playing patriotic Chinese music; one was a black BMW sedan with a new-vehicle permit.

The pro-democracy event in Halifax was one of several taking place Saturday across the country and around the world. In Hong Kong, thousands of school teachers joined the anti-government protests, Reuters reported.

The unrest began in June in opposition to a now-suspended extradition bill and has since grown to include broader demands. Demonstrators have said they are fighting the erosion of the “one country, two systems” arrangement that has kept some autonomy for Hong Kong since China regained control of the territory from Britain in 1997.

On Saturday in Halifax, the scale of the demonstration was different, but the intention was the same.

“There’s only a few of us,” Wong said.

Turning to his group’s humble collection of stand-up posters, he said, “This is all from Dollarama, basically.”

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