Tens of thousands of people showed up for a rally in support of police officers in Hong Kong days after a video emerged showing protesters brutally beating a riot cop. Several Chinese flags were spotted in the crowd.
The rally on Saturday evening drew in thousands of locals, including representatives of local minorities, immigrants and celebrities. Some reportedly travelled from the mainland to take part in the massive protest in Tamar Park on Saturday evening.
Turnout estimates vary dramatically between the police and the 70 or so pro-government activists and public personalities who organized the protest. While the organizers said that 316,000 people took to the streets on Saturday, police put the number at 103,000.
The rally kicked off at 5pm local time and wrapped up about two hours later without incident. It saw the park, adjacent to the Central Government Offices and the Legislative Council, turn into a sea of umbrellas the participants used to shield themselves from the rain.
The rally featured actor Nat Chan Pak-cheung and singer Maria Cordero, who kicked off the event with the chant: “Safeguard the rule of law. Oppose violence.” While the organizers did not espouse any political agenda, several demonstrators were seen waving Chinese flags.
The rally ended with a call for unity and against violence. “We don’t want violence. We don’t want a split. We want rule of law, peace, stability and unity!” the organizers said in a joint statement, the South China Morning Post reported.
The rally was convened shortly after family members of 60 police officers penned an open letter to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, calling on the government to launch an inquiry into the recent unrest and refrain from using police officers as “human shields” that are “forced to bear the consequences of the government’s maladministration.”
Hong Kong has been gripped by protests over a now-suspended extradition bill that would have allowed the former British colony to hand over criminal suspects to mainland China. Police have been heavily criticized for their ham-fisted approach to tackling the unrest. Initially peaceful demonstrations over the extradition bill quickly spiraled into violence and saw multiple fierce clashes between police and demonstrators, whom Lam described as “rioters.”