French 'Spider-man' makes 'urgent appeal for peace' in Hong Kong with daredevil stunt

A daredevil dubbed the French “Spider-man” scaled the side of a skyscraper in Hong Kong Friday to reveal a message calling for peace as the government of Beijing continues to be at odds with demonstrators rallying for political reform.

Alain Robert, known for his unauthorized climbs of skyscrapers, ascended the 62-story Cheung Kong Center Friday morning and revealed a banner appealing for peace between China and Hong Kong after several weeks of protesting that recently escalated with the shut down of the airport, a major international transportation hub.

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"The banner is to give joy and smile to the people of Hong Kong," he told The Associated Press as he sat in a taxi prior to the stunt. He added that he didn't want to get "mixed up in the political situation."

French urban climber Alain Robert climbs the Cheung Kong Center building in Hong Kong, China, August 16, 2019.

French urban climber Alain Robert climbs the Cheung Kong Center building in Hong Kong, China, August 16, 2019. (Reuters)

The banner depicted the Chinese and Hong Kong flags over a handshake and a small yellow sun with a smiley face.

Robert, 57, made the climb like many of his other stunts with no harnesses or ropes as he hoped to convey what he called an “urgent appeal for peace,” the BBC reported.

The stuntman was taken to a police station afterward, although it was not immediately clear if he would be charged. Robert was previously banned in 2017 from returning to Hong Kong for one year after climbing another building.

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Across the bay in Shenzhen, members of China's paramilitary People's Armed Police marched and practiced crowd control tactics at a sports complex in what some have interpreted as a threat against pro-democracy protesters.

Alain Robert, a French rock and urban climber hangs on to Cheung kong centre building after hanging a large fabric displaying Chinese and Hong Kong flags, shaking hands and shining sun in Hong Kong, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

Alain Robert, a French rock and urban climber hangs on to Cheung kong centre building after hanging a large fabric displaying Chinese and Hong Kong flags, shaking hands and shining sun in Hong Kong, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

Chinese state media has only said that the Shenzhen exercises were planned earlier and were not directly related to the unrest in Hong Kong, though they came shortly after the central government in Beijing said the protests were beginning to show the "sprouts of terrorism."

From a distance, police could be seen conducting drills in military fatigues, using shields, poles and other riot-control gear. In one exercise, two groups marched in formation with those in the front raising shields as if to protect themselves from projectiles. Others held red flags and banners. The words "the law" and "prosecuted" could be seen on one.

Outside, dozens of armored carriers and trucks sat in the parking lot of the Shenzhen Bay Stadium, close to a bridge linking mainland China to Hong Kong.

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Weeks of protests in Hong Kong have been marked by increasing violence. The demonstrators are demanding expanded political rights and the scrapping of legislation that could have seen criminal suspects sent to mainland China.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.