ANTI-HONG KONG DEMOCRACY PROTEST IN SYDNEY MARRED BY UGLY CONFRONTATIONS

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Anti-Hong Kong democracy protest in Sydney marred by ugly confrontations

By Nick Bonyhady and Vicky Xiuzhong Xu

An anti-Hong Kong democracy rally turned ugly in Sydney’s CBD on Saturday, with protesters shouting jingoistic slogans and two men escorted away under police protection after they were confronted by rally attendees.

*The protesters, most of them believed to be migrants from mainland China, attended the rally to support Beijing’s policies in Hong Kong. The group gathered at Belmore Park about noon and marched to Sydney Town Hall, chanting “long live China”, with attendance estimates varying from 200 to 3000.

An anti-democracy protester grabs a man with a Taiwanese man around the neck at a rally in Sydney today.
An anti-democracy protester grabs a man with a Taiwanese man around the neck at a rally in Sydney today.CREDIT:AAP

*During the protest, an elderly man holding a sign supporting freedom in Hong Kong was escorted away by police after being surrounded and verbally abused by mainland protesters.

**“He’s being protected by the police, otherwise we’d beat him to death,” a woman said in Mandarin as others cursed at him “Traitor! Traitor!”

*A man holding a Taiwanese flag was confronted by rally attendees at the tail end of the event and appeared to be grabbed around the neck by another man before he fell to the ground.

Police later broke up the fracas and escorted the man to safety.

Several speakers led the rally in aggressive anti-Hong Kong protest chants.
Several speakers led the rally in aggressive anti-Hong Kong protest chants.CREDIT:SMH

Police said one person at the rally was taken into custody to prevent a breach of the peace and was released without charge.

*A Sydney resident who attended the rally but did not give his name, said: “Only one incident occurred where someone tried to spread disinformation but they were kicked out by the Chinese community.”

It comes after two men were moved on from protests in Melbourne today and scuffles broke out between pro and anti-democracy protesters in that city on Friday night.

*During the rally, the crowd named individual student leaders in Hong Kong and called for a crackdown. The crowd cheered: “Those in Hong Kong who don’t love HK, get the f— out! If you don’t love China, you’re our enemy! Isolate them! Get the f— out!”

*In response, someone shouted: “Hong Kong separatists are c—s!”

Many who participated in the rally were well-dressed young students angered by the protests in Hong Kong and reactions in Australia. They dubbed their rally Hong Kong No Riot, holding pictures of what they called “riots” in Hong Kong and condemned those in Australia who support the “rioters”.

*The organisers, including a man named Liang Junshen (Jack) who said he was a former university student in Sydney, took weeks to purchase the Chinese flags and design posters.

*However, a group on WeChat (a Chinese messaging app) where participants were mobilised was taken down days before the rally following heated political discussions that triggered concerns from Chinese censors.

Mr Liang said he was in meetings with other leaders of the rally, but denied that they had any political affiliations or was connected to Chinese officials.

*Familiar faces from previous pro-China protests were at today’s rally: a young Chinese couple who spoke at the rally had attempted to disrupt a talk at Sydney University earlier this year about China’s mass detention of the Uighur people.

*Another protester who told the crowd “if you are a separatist, I wish death upon your father”, played an active role in another pro-China rally in 2017 that was reportedly organised by the Chinese consulate in Sydney.

Earlier this month The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age revealed one student’s account of how his family in China was approached by authorities after he participated in a pro-democracy Hong Kong protest in Brisbane.

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*A post from the state-owned Chinese newspaper The People’s Daily on Twitter portrayed the protest as a peaceful and cheerful event and posts on WeChat cast it in a similarly positive light.

*The Chinese Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye issued a statement on the morning of the protests in Sydney,  describing protesters in Hong Kong as exhibiting “radical, violent and illegal behaviours”.

“Their behaviours have grossly trampled on the rule of law and social order in Hong Kong, seriously threatened the local residents’ life and safety, severely jeopardised Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability. No responsible government would sit idly by,” the ambassador said.

*“Hong Kong affairs are solely the internal affairs of China.”

Hong Kong has been rocked by weeks of street protests, some attended by more than a million people, demanding democracy for the city, which is governed under a separate arrangement to the rest of China.

Nick Bonyhady

Nick is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.

An anti-democracy protester grabs a man with a Taiwanese man around the neck at a rally in Sydney today.

SOURCE: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/anti-hong-kong-protest-in-sydney-marred-by-ugly-confrontation-20190817-p52i4f.html

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