Thousands rally in support of Hong Kong police
Tens of thousands attended a rally to support Hong Kong's leadership amid the city's biggest political crisis in decades.
AP, Hong Kong :
Tens of thousands of people rallied in support of Hong Kong's police and pro-Beijing leadership on Saturday, a vivid illustration of the polarisation coursing through the city after weeks of anti-government demonstrations.
Hong Kong has been rocked by more than a month of huge and largely peaceful protests-as well as a series of separate violent confrontations with police-sparked by a proposed law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China and other countries.
The bill has since been suspended, but that has done little to quell public anger which has evolved into a wider movement calling for democratic reforms, universal suffrage and a halt to sliding freedoms in the semi-autonomous financial hub.
Saturday's rally was a moment for the establishment to muster their own supporters.
A predominantly older crowd was joined by families and younger residents, waving Chinese flags and holding banners supporting the police.
"Friends who used violence say they love Hong Kong too, but we absolutely cannot approve of their way of expressing themselves," said Sunny Wong, 42, who works in insurance.
A 60-year-old woman surnamed Leung said protesters who stormed and vandalised the legislature earlier this month must be held responsible for their acts.
"I really dislike people using violence on others... it was so extreme," Leung said.
Hong Kong's police are in the midst of a major reputational crisis.
With no political solution on the table from the city's pro-Beijing leaders, the police have become enmeshed in a seemingly intractable cycle of clashes with protesters who have continued to hit the streets in huge numbers for six weeks.
Demonstrators and rights groups have accused riot police of using excessive force, including tear gas and rubber bullets, and public anger against the force is boiling over.
Police insist their crowd control responses have been proportionate and point to their own injured officers as proof that a hardcore minority of protesters mean them harm.
Some of the most violent clashes occurred last Sunday when riot police battled protesters hurling projectiles inside a luxury mall. Some 28 people were injured, including 10 officers.