At 7 p.m. on Aug. 16, approximately 500 pro-Hong Kong supporters stood peacefully on the steps of Victoria’s State Library in a show of support for a “Stand with Hong Kong-Power to the People” rally organized by the Victoria Hong Kong Tertiary Student Association.
In addition to the five demands from Hong Kong protesters, the rally called for two additional demands. Firstly for the UK to declare a Chinese breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a binding international treaty; and secondly for the U.S. Congress and the UK Parliament to legislate and impose Magnitsky-style sanctions upon the persons responsible for or complicit in the suppression of rights and freedom in Hong Kong.
Within minutes of starting the rally, pro-Beijing demonstrators gathered next to the group in approximately equal numbers, chanting slogans and playing music, with some demonstrators then resorting to scuffles and shoves in order to vent their frustrations on the protesters.
Some members of the press were also attacked.
Footage captured shows an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) cameraman attacked by a pro-Beijing demonstrator who sought to damage a camera—the demonstrator was then pulled back and restrained by bystanders.
As clashes between both sides intensified, Victoria police formed a barricade between both groups, however, the chanting and shouting from both sides continued.
Unified chants from the pro-Hong Kong side such as “We will not give in,” “Stand with Hong Kong,” and “Free Hong Kong” could be heard while on the pro-Beijing side, “One China,” as well as other slogans, were heard.
Richard Bradford, a retired I.T. professional, was appalled by the behavior demonstrated by the pro-Beijing group.
“It’s disappointing to see a small group over there pretending to support mainland China when they’re really supporting a small band of violent thugs,” Bradford told The Epoch Times.
“Unfortunately, the small group of thugs in China have already proven themselves as violent suppressors. They’re doing nasty things over in the Uyghur territory, they’re still trying to bully Taiwan, they are bullying the people up in Tibet.”
Ruan (Frank) Jie, an editor at Tiananmen Times, said that the Chinese consulate was most likely behind the pro-Beijing demonstrators who have been “taught the wrong things.”
“They come here, they don’t know how to pay respect to the freedom of the other people, and they don’t know how to respect the other group of people,” Frank told The Epoch Times.
“These people are very rude. You can see they are very aggressive.”
Due to security concerns, the rally was shortened to only a few speeches made by event organizers and from members of the public, cutting the scheduled rally time by half. By 9:30 p.m. local time, pro-Hong Kong protesters left the event with pro-Beijing demonstrators still chanting slogans.
“In the face of excessive violence, and unlawful oppression from the police, most of the indiscriminate attacks from the gangs, defamation against the protesters from the government, Hong Kongers are still trying their very best to protect our last line of defense, our judicial system,” a spokesperson at the rally said.
Despite no reported injuries, Victoria Police confirmed to the ABC that two men were interviewed regarding unlawful assault, before being released pending summons.
The rally in Melbourne follows other Hong Kong rallies held on the same day in Sydney, Brisbane, and Adelaide.