August 18, 2019
Hundreds attended a rally Saturday in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters. RICK MADONIK / TORONTO STAR
By Jennifer Pagliaro, City Hall Reporter at the Toronto Star
Pro-Hong Kong protesters clashed with supporters of China’s Communist government in the heart of downtown Toronto on Saturday.
The two groups — each numbering in the hundreds and almost equally matched in size — shouted at each other across a divide in front of Old City Hall in the late afternoon sun. The standoff followed a week in which thousands of protesters clashed with police in Hong Kong and forced a shutdown of the territory’s airport. Another major pro-democracy protest is planned for Sunday in Hong Kong.
Protests have escalated this summer over an extradition bill introduced in Hong Kong’s legislature that would allow the government to send those accused of crimes to mainland China. Since then, the protests have grown in size and widened to include concerns about other democratic freedoms and Hong Kong’s autonomy. Protesters have also demanded an investigation of local police for accusations of excessive force used against demonstrators.
In Toronto, protesters shouted “Freedom!” at those waving the five-starred Chinese flag, who were holding signs with messages such as “Shame on rioters!”
Sisters Sharon and Shirlet Chan, who were born in Hong Kong, said they are against the extradition bill and have been devastated to watch protesters in their native city be attacked by police.
“We’re in solidarity with everyone in Hong Kong. We wish we could be there, but we’re doing the most we can while we’re here,” Sharon told the Star. “It’s very upsetting. Personally, I feel very emotionally attached to the situation because we’re both from there. It’s our home.”
The women said citizens in Hong Kong peacefully pushed back against the extradition bill, but are now responding to police tactics.
“People are angry and they want to fight back,” Sharon said.