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Radio Free Asia

Pro-China Supporters 'Bully' Those Showing Support For Hong Kong Protests Globally

2019-08-19 -- A wave of pro-China demonstrations is gathering pace in cities around the world, wherever supporters of the Hong Kong anti-extradition movement gather, prompting concerns over violence and freedom of expression.

Canadian police escorted around 80 worshippers from a church in Vancouver on Sunday after the church was surrounded by around 100 shouting pro-China protesters and vehicles that had earlier been seen at the Chinese consulate.

A woman seen directing protesters outside the Tenth Church -- which had been holding a prayer service for Hong Kong -- declined to speak to the media or to identify herself.

The protesters' actions were described by an organizer of the prayers as "intimidation" and "bullying," Hong Kong's English-language South China Morning Post reported.

Chris Chiu told the paper that the incident had left him shaken and fearing for the worshippers' safety, although 20 police officers were called to the scene.

The standoff came as rallies in support of Hong Kong protesters attracted counter-protests from China-backed demonstrators waving their national flag and roaring the Chinese Communist Party anthem to drown out the sounds of the Hong Kong rallies in more than a dozen cities over the weekend. Protests are quickly snuffed out in China, with organizers often receiving stiff jail terms.

In Toronto, hundreds of protesters faced off outside Old City Hall during a rally for Hong Kong, with shouting matches between both groups, with police intervening to keep the peace, local media reported.

And around 500 pro-China protesters rallied in Sydney, holding up a banner that read "Say no to the Hong Kong riots!" and singing the Chinese national anthem, the March of the Volunteers.

"We don't want violence, only peace," one participant told RFA. "We love China, and we want to build a peaceful China and a peaceful world."

"China's handling of Hong Kong has been excellent, and we want the people of Hong Kong to know that," he said.

Bad for China's image

Chinese who get their information from official state media are receiving a vastly different account, censored and spun to support Beijing's version of events, than those witnessing protests in Hong Kong.

Australia-based scholar Feng Chongyi said that there is huge unspoken pressure on Chinese nationals overseas to demonstrate their loyalty to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, which has ramped up its official rhetoric around the Hong Kong anti-extradition movement in recent weeks, styling the protesters "rioters" who are being incited and manipulated by hostile foreign forces.

"These so-called protest leaders have long been in close contact with the Chinese embassies and consulates," Feng said. "They are obliged to come out and carry out the political tasks given to them by the Chinese Communist Party, at crucial points in time."

"The benefits are multi-faceted. They get business opportunities in China, while community groups get to go on all-expenses-paid trips to China," he said.

Feng said many Chinese also feel a sense of personal honor in serving Chinese national interests, even if they are resident elsewhere.

"They want to win the trust of the regime, which they think will give them personal status and position, as well as an invite to the consulate banquet come Chinese New Year," he said.

Feng said he had attended a pro-Hong Kong rally on Sunday in Melbourne, and spoken to a number of Australian nationals who had been shocked at the obscenities hurled by the pro-China group at the Hong Kong supporters.

"They all expressed their disdain for these Chinese students and for patriotic overseas Chinese," Feng said. "They thought they were barbaric and that they were going international."

"This has a very negative impact on [China's] international image," he said.

Anthem and obscenities

The rally Feng attended was disrupted by crowds of people singing the Chinese national anthem and hurling obscenities at those showing solidarity with the anti-extradition movement in Hong Kong, to chants of "Support the Hong Kong police"" & 'Hong Kong separatists are dumb asses."

Australia-based dissident cartoonist Badiucao posted video that appeared to show a China nationalist attacking an ABC news reporter in Melbourne. "He escaped after the attacking," he wrote in an unconfirmed report.

Meanwhile, China state news agency Xinhua has taken out at least five advertisements on Facebook since Sunday including a video clip of an Australian national angry over the recent shutdown of Hong Kong's International Airport by thousands of anti-extradition protesters, Gizmodo news reported.

One ad calls on Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has hit out at Beijing's "cowardly" handling of the Hong Kong protest movement, to "fly to Hong Kong to see what the true facts are."

Another says Hong Kong's economy has been hit by the protests, claiming that the majority of citizens want someone to "restore order" in the city.

Some 1.7 million people took to Hong Kong's streets on Sunday in the latest in a string of mass, peaceful protests against plans to allow the extradition of alleged criminal suspects to face trial in mainland China.

Anti-extradition protesters published advertisements in 11 major newspapers on Monday calling for international support for Hong Kong in 10 countries.

"Amid tear gas and rubber bullets, this once vibrant and safe metropolis is at a crossroads," the protesters wrote. "Since the protests against the controversial extradition bill started in June, Hong Kong's autonomy and freedom have been eroded beyond recognition. This is the ugly truth that the Hong Kong government does not want you to know: Hong Kong is becoming a police state."

"Instead of implementing political reform as promised, the Hong Kong government has turned into an apparatus of repression. Police brutality, endorsed by both the Hong Kong and Chinese governments, has now become part of our daily lives," they added.

The anti-extradition protests that have gripped the city since early June are making five key demands of the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam: the formal withdrawal of planned amendments to extradition laws; an amnesty for arrested protesters; an end to the description of protesters as rioters; an independent inquiry into police abuse of power; and fully democratic elections.

Reported by Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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