Police step in as pro-Beijing protesters show up at Calgary rally in support of Hong Kong

Police stepped in to maintain order in Calgary on Saturday as pro-Hong Kong and pro-Beijing protesters faced off.

'Democracy is something that is very special. It needs support,' said one pro-Hong Kong protester

Pro-Beijing protesters yell toward a group protesting in support of democratic reform in Hong Kong. (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada)

Police stepped in to maintain order in Calgary on Saturday as pro-Hong Kong and pro-Beijing protesters faced off.

Dozens met for a rally in Crescent Heights in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong who have been met with police violence during Chinese-government crackdowns in the region.

The protests in Hong Kong began as a response to a now-suspended bill that would have allowed Hong Kong citizens to be sent to China for trial and have now grown to include demands for greater democracy, release of arrested protesters, investigations into allegations of police abuse of force and for the region's chief executive (who is elected by Hong Kong's electoral college before the appointment is signed off on by the Chinese government) to step down.

Chants of "free Hong Kong" were drowned out as pro-Chinese government protesters approached, chanting "Hong Kong is part of China."

As the two sides met, there was shouting and shoving, prompting police to step in to separate the two groups.

Ken Tang, a pro-Hong Kong protester, said he wasn't surprised to see pro-Chinese government protesters show up and said his group called police in advance to ensure everyone's safety.

"They do not understand the concept of democracy, freedom and rights," Tang said. "A lot of the information they are getting is strictly propaganda from the Beijing bureaus."

"There are two sides to the story," said counter-protester Sarah Zhang, adding that she felt Hong Kong benefited under Chinese-government rule. "I just want everything to be peaceful."

Tang said he's hoping Canadians will reach out and ask the prime minister to do something about the human rights situation in Hong Kong, including for Canadians that are detained there.

"They are being tortured, they are being questioned repeatedly, and they are even denying them the right of having an attorney," he said. 

Pro-Hong Kong protesters rally in Calgary on Saturday. (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada)

"Democracy is something that is very special. It needs support … it must be saved."

More than 300,000 Canadians live in Hong Kong and the federal government has said it's working on contingency plans to assist those in the region.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has condemned the violence in Hong Kong, saying Canada supports Hong Kong's degree of autonomy and residents' right to peaceful assembly.

With files from Vincent Bonnay