SEOUL—Kim Ji-mun, a 23-year-old South Korean university student, had just put up a banner on campus with his friends in support of Hong Kongs pro-democracy protests when a group of Chinese students tried to take it down.
The encounter at Hanyang University in Seoul led to a seven-hour confrontation, he said, with the Koreans trying to protect their hand-written poster bearing the message “We join the democracy movement in Hong Kong,” and the other side jeering, throwing things and chanting “One China.”
“They come in groups, cursing and saying they would kill us. They took photos of the students who support Hong Kong and shared them on social media,” Kim told Reuters.
Kim said the Chinese students mocked the South Koreans in the altercation on Nov. 13, suggesting they had been paid to back Hong Kong, and making that point by throwing coins at them.
Hong Kong has been rocked by five months of protests by big crowds, with young people at the forefront, angered by what they see as Beijings stifling of freedoms despite a “one country, two systems” promise of autonomy when the city returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
South Korea has its own painful history of student-led, pro-democracy protests, in particular a l980 uprising crushed by troops.
“South Korea received support from foreign countries when we fought for democracy. I couldnt remain silent as I also share the belief in the value of democracy,” said another student, Kang Min-seo, 24.
Reuters could not track down contact information for the Chinese students involved in the Wednesday confrontation, or in several similar incidents that have taken place at South Korean universities.
Hong Kongs protests have stirred similar confrontations in various places around the world in recent weeks, usually involving patriotic Chinese students.