Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 September 2019

'Spiderman' and 'Superman' try to make peace between Hong Kong and China

French daredevil climber and local billionaire issue separate appeals after weeks of protests

A French daredevil climber known as "Spiderman" scaled a skyscraper in Hong Kong on Friday to call for reconciliation with China after weeks of protests as a local billionaire known as "Superman" made a similar plea in a series of newspaper advertisements.

The calls came as more mass demonstrations were expected at the weekend.

Using his bare hands and without a harness, Alain Robert clambered up the 68-storey Cheung Kong Centre in Hong Kong's central business district and secured a large banner to the building's exterior that symbolised reconciliation between China and the territory.

The sign positioned China's flag in the left-hand corner with Hong Kong's flag on the right side. Underneath was a yellow hand shaking a red hand on a white background to signify peace.

China has likened the pro-democracy protests staged over the past 11 weeks to terrorism and has warned it could use force to quell them. With no signs of an end to the unrest, speculation has been growing that Beijing will send in its troops after state media showed video footage of paramilitary police gathering in Shenzhen, just across the mainland border.

Mr Robert's ascent on Friday was the third time he has climbed the Cheung Kong Centre, which is the headquarters of Cheung Kong Holdings founded by the billionaire Li Ka-shing.

Mr Li, one of the richest men in the former British territory and known as "Superman" to admirers of his business acumen, also called for peace on Friday.

“Love freedom, love tolerance, love the rule of law,” Mr Li, 91, said in advertisements placed on the front pages of several local newspapers, signing them as “a Hong Kong citizen.”

“Love China, love Hong Kong, love yourself. The best cause can lead to the worst result. Stop anger in the name of love,” he said.

The protests have damaged investor confidence in the Asian business hub, with the government on Thursday predicting annual growth would be between zero and 1 per cent. The territory's image took a further hit this week when protests at its international airport halted most flights for two days.

Police arrested Mr Robert immediately after his climb, which came two weeks after the end of a year-long ban on him climbing buildings in Hong Kong. Dressed in bright hues of purple, pink and green, he was taken to a nearby police station.

Prior to the ascent he put out a statement saying the message of his climb 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," he said.

Mr Robert often climbs without permission and has been arrested several times, sometimes for trespassing.

Updated: August 16, 2019 12:27 PM

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