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Halifax residents hold duelling protests over political unrest in Hong Kong

Hundreds of people rallied at the Halifax waterfront on Saturday in two duelling protests over the political unrest in Hong Kong.

Waving flags and singing their country’s national anthem, members of the Chinese diaspora urged Hong Kong supporters outside the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market to get on board with the so-called “One China” policy, which argues that there can be only one sovereign state within China’s borders.

Armed with their own poster boards depicting police brutality and attacks on media in Hong Kong, pro-democracy protesters argued that the movement underway in the semi-autonomous region is primarily concerned with democracy and freedom.

“We are addressing this to the Hong Kong government,” said Hong Kong-born activist Joshua Wong.

“We are not addressing this in any way to the Chinese government and there were no words whatsoever marking or hinting independence or any split-ism.”

READ MORE: Hong Kong divided as protesters for democracy, China

Over the past 10 weeks, clashes between police and pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong have turned violent, causing shutdowns and chaos at its airport, which resumed normal operations on Wednesday.

The conflict, along with a perceived erosion of freedoms, has plunged the Asian financial hub into its worst crisis since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Among the movement’s primary demands are the resignation of Hong Kong’s leader, democratic elections, an independent inquiry into police use of force during protests, and dismissal of all charges against the protesters.

In Halifax, both sides of the conflict engaged in heated arguments over who cast the first stone – police or protesters.

Signs of support for Hong Kong are displayed at a protest in Halifax on Aug. 17, 2019.

Signs of support for Hong Kong are displayed at a protest in Halifax on Aug. 17, 2019.

Elizabeth McSheffrey / Global News

READ MORE: Protesters face off at rally for Hong Kong in Toronto

Benjamin Bai, who hails from China but has lived in Canada for more than 30 years, was not convinced by arguments that Hong Kong does not seek complete autonomy from China.

At the waterfront, he told Global News that the actions of protesters abroad indicate movement towards a split from Beijing.

“There’s nothing wrong for democracy, freedom and their human rights,” he said. “But the truth is that they use this word to cover their face, to cover their purpose. Their real purpose is not democracy, not freedom. Their real purpose is wanting independence.”

Saturday’s demonstration in Halifax took place in tandem with Hong Kong solidarity showings around the world and in other Canadian cities. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has joined other global leaders in calling for peace and a tactful de-escalation of tension in the territory.

With a file from Reuters

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