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Frenchman climbs Hong Kong tower with 'peace banner'

August 16, 2019

Amid ongoing pro-democracy protests, French climber Alain Robert scaled a Hong Kong skyscraper with a reconciliation flag. Robert said he hoped to "raise a smile," but many were less than pleased with the stunt.

French climber Alain Robert affixes a banner to a skyscraper in Hong Kong
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/AP/V. Thian

Alain Robert, a climber dubbed the "French Spiderman," clambered up a building in Hong Kong on Friday, hoisting up a flag meant to symbolize reconciliation between the territory and China.

Robert scaled the 68-story Cheung Kong Center in the city's central business district, unfurling a "peace banner" depicting both the Chinese and Hong Kong flags as well as two hands shaking.

The 57-year-old, who is known for carrying out unsanctioned climbs without a harness, was arrested after completing the climb. He'd been banned from scaling buildings in Hong Kong last year, but his ban ended two weeks ago.

Also on Friday,Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong's wealthiest man, whose family owns the skyscraper Robert climbed, purchased a series of advertisements in Hong Kong newspapers, urging people "stop the violence." The 91-year-old billionaire urged people to "love China, love Hong Kong and love yourself" in the poetic advertisements.

The climbing stunt and newspaper ads come as Hong Kong prepares for more pro-democracy demonstrations over the weekend after over 10 weeks of massive and sometimes violent protests.

'Foreigners don't understand'

Ahead of his climb, Robert released a statement saying that the point of his stunt was to make "an urgent appeal for peace and consultation between Hong Kong people and their government."

"Perhaps what I do can lower the temperature and maybe raise a smile. That's my hope anyway," Robert said in the statement.

French climber Alain Robert scales a skyscraper in Hong Kong
Robert was banned for a year from climbing buildings in Hong KongImage: picture-alliance/dpa/AP/V. Thian

Many, however, were less than enthused with Robert's message.

"This shows many foreigners don't understand the underlying issue between Hong Kong and China," one user wrote on a popular online forum.

"Do you really want [to] shake hands with butchers and dictators?" tweeted Australia-based Chinese dissident artist Badiucao.

The protests in Hong Kong were initially started to oppose a bill that would allow the territory to extradite people facing criminal charges to mainland China, but the movement has expanded to include wider calls for democracy.

Over 700 people have been arrested since the protests began in June, with police frequently using tear gas in an attempt to disperse protests.

The movement poses the biggest threat to Beijing's authority in semi-autonomous Hong Kong since the territory was reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

rs/rc (AFP, Reuters)

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