Hundreds of people gathered in a Guangzhou park yesterday in defiance of government orders not to rally as part of a campaign to defend Cantonese. About 20, including several journalists, were taken away by police for questioning. The journalists, three from Now TV, two from Cable TV and one from Reuters news agency, were detained for nearly six hours, one of them said. 'We were told we were being formally summoned for allegedly causing public disorder,' said Lam Kin-shing, the Guangzhou correspondent for Cable TV. About 200 people attended a parallel rally in Hong Kong. The rare joint campaign was the first to mobilise Cantonese speakers in Hong Kong and Guangdong in defence of the dialect, which they say has been increasingly marginalised on the mainland. In downtown People's Park in Guangzhou, amid a heavy police presence, more than a hundred supporters congregated yesterday afternoon, participants said. They were cheered and joined by dozens of onlookers before police ordered them to leave. Hundreds more gathered outside the park, unable to get in while police were clearing it, said writer Ye Du, who was among them. Many supporters were dressed in white, the colour chosen by activists to symbolise their efforts to maintain their cultural identity. Conflict between protesters and the authorities has noticeably escalated, with a statement posted on the Guangzhou police website accusing protesters of holding illegal assemblies. It said police had to detain and investigate those who ignored their orders. 'Guangzhou police stressed that they would punish those who were unreasonable and created trouble,' the statement said. As hundreds of police marched into the park, they were booed by onlookers. There were scuffles between police and protesters, some of whom were detained and taken away by police. 'They are beating people,' many shouted. 'We protest. We protest.' Others screamed: 'Police, go away!' and: 'F*** his mother, persist against all odds,' emulating the obscene rallying cry reportedly used by Ming dynasty national hero Yuan Chonghuan. Guangdong authorities last month upset Cantonese-speaking natives by removing a plaque with the phrase inscribed at the base of his statue in Dongguan. Police closed the park after all protesters and visitors had been removed. Many protesters walked to the nearby pedestrian zone in Beijing Road to continue their campaign. Police cordoned off the normally busy shopping street with crowd control barriers. Many activists had already been warned not to attend the rally by Guangzhou police. Yesterday, several were taken out for 'coffee' by police - a euphemism for soft detention. 'I told the police that, especially before the Asian Games, they should listen to the people's voice and not suppress them,' said Ye Du, who was detained by police at a cafe for four hours. Phone calls to Guangzhou police went unanswered yesterday. The parallel rally in Hong Kong at Southorn playground in Wan Chai was attended by about 200 supporters. They marched to the government headquarters in Central. Among them were a handful of mainlanders. Two covered their faces with medical masks, and said they were afraid of facing reprisals back home if they were recognised.