A demonstration in solidarity with Hong Kong’s democracy movement was blocked from marching through downtown Toronto by a group supporting the People’s Republic of China.
On Saturday, hundreds of people met in front of Toronto’s Old City Hallin support of the ongoing protests in Hong Kong against a controversial extradition bill supported by the Chinese regime.
The pro-democracy protesters in Toronto intended to march peacefully around the Eaton Centre, but shortly after arriving, the group found its path was blocked by counter-protesters chanting “one China” at the crowd.
“They do not have a permit to stage this rally here,” said Gloria Fung, one of the organizers of the pro-Hong Kong rally.
“They are only here to jeopardize our freedom of expression. In Canada we show zero tolerance to this kind of intimidation and harassment.”
Fung noted that Canadians enjoy a high degree of freedom of expression that is not seen in mainland China.
“This is Canada. We have the constitutional right to freedom of expression. No one can take that from all of us.”
The pro-Beijing protesters largely refused to talk to the media, but one man told reporters that “we want one China. Anything can be negotiated, but we want to talk in peace.”
In Hong Kong mass demonstrations have occurred against a bill which would have allowed the government to extradite Hong Kong residents to mainland China to face trial.
Protesters believe this bill would lead to the arrest of government critics and human rights campaigners on the autonomous island.
Protests have been ongoing for over 10 weeks now, with protesters calling for the resignation of the pro-Beijing leadership of Hong Kong’s government and for free democratic elections.
Beijing has called the ongoing demostrations in Hong Kong the “sprouts of terrorism” and used the police to crack down agressively.
Canada has remained relatively quiet on the situation, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau only saying that China should “be careful” when dealing with the pro-democracy demonstrators.
Global Affairs Canada gave a similarly light-handed approach, decrying violence on both sides and asking for restraint.
“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 department said in a statement.
Pro-Hong Kong and pro-Beijing demonstrations have occurred across Canada in recent weeks, including one featuring a former Ontario Liberal minister telling a crowd in Markham to support the Chinese government and police force.