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Hong Kong protests come to the Univ. of Minnesota

In the first known event in Minnesota, protesters marched through campus fighting for Hong Kong democracy

MINNEAPOLIS — A global debate over democracy and Hong Kong's relationship with China boiled over at the University of Minnesota on Friday, as Hong Kong protesters marched through campus in the state's first known organized event. 

The organizer of the march, a Hong Kong native and university student who remained anonymous due to fear of retribution, said he hopes to raise awareness in Minnesota about Hong Kong's democratic struggle. The demonstrators spent the afternoon chanting and carrying signs that read "FIGHT FOR FREEDOM, STAND WITH HONG KONG" and "SUPPORT THE HONG KONG HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY ACT."

"We vow for democracy," the organizer said. "We vow for liberty. We vow for freedom."

Protesters have taken over the streets in Hong Kong for the past six months, objecting to a proposed extradition bill that many in the semi-autonomous region worried might make them the target of politically-motivated judicial actions by China's Communist Party. 

Hong Kong, a former British colony that operates somewhat independently from mainland China, has long been engaged in a tug-of-war between the Communist Party's desires and its own political institutions (This month, the battle spilled into the world of American sports, when the general manager of the NBA's Houston Rockets tweeted in support of Hong Kong. The NBA and star LeBron James' failure to fully come to his defense was criticized by some as a weak response in light of the billions the league makes from Chinese fans).  

At the University of Minnesota on Friday, the Hong Kong group was met with a swift counter-protest from mainland Chinese international students. Some said they disagreed with the violent tactics used by some demonstrators in Hong Kong, which they feel undermines the message of freedom. 

"They are destroying their economy. They are doing all the things to destroy their motherland," one of the mainland Chinese students said. "We are here telling them — please stop."

The organizer of the Hong Kong protests, however, said he feels the message is not being heard from his mainland counterparts.

"It seems to us," he said, "that a lot of the Chinese protesters do not really understand the meaning of our protest."

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