Thousands of protesters poured into Tamar Park in Admiralty on Saturday in a show of support for the police.

The rain failed to dampen spirits as crowds flanked the perimeter of the stage from 5pm, chanting “oppose violence, save Hong Kong,” with some waving Chinese flags and holding placards that read “don’t allow Hong Kong to be chaotic anymore.”

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The event began with a 10-minute edited video of recent scenes of unrest which included protesters hurling objects at police officers, arrests being made, and the storming of the Legislative Council Complex on July 1. Several prominent pro-Beijing figures also made an appearance including lawmakers Elizabeth Quat and Starry Lee, as well as former Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung and National People’s Congress Standing Committee member Tam Yiu-chung.

Organisers, the Hong Kong Island Federation, said that an estimated 476,000 people attended the rally, which lasted under an hour. Police put the turnout at 108,000.

As the city nears its eleventh consecutive week of protests sparked by the government’s now-suspended extradition bill, police have been accused of using heavy-handed tactics to quell unrest — such as deploying rubber bullets and around 2,000 rounds of tear gas. A woman who was shot at with a suspected bean bag round last Sunday may lose her sight in her right eye. Her injury prompted a chorus of criticism from anti-government protesters who blasted the police for alleged excessive use of force.

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Photo: May James/HKFP.

But police have countered accusations of misconduct saying that officers are instructed to use the minimum amount of force necessary to disperse protesters participating in unlawful assemblies.

An image posted to the force’s official Facebook last Sunday showed an officer whose legs were burned by a Molotov cocktail allegedly thrown by a protester.

‘Taken it too far’

Twenty-three-year-old Chantal Chung, who works in business, told HKFP she and her friends decided to attend Saturday’s rally to represent young people.

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“As a person who was also born in 1996, we think that youngsters don’t just have one single voice. We also share similar values with everyone here, [we] support the police and support the government,” she said. “Everyone has to try their best to avoid any violence but the [protesters] literally have taken it too far, so they are doing damage for the sake of it… it’s simply to make Hong Kong as disastrous as possible. So, I don’t think anything they’re doing now is doing any good for us.”

Chung added she believes the police are justified in using force to protect themselves against threats and violence from protesters. “I don’t think the police have taken it too far. They are just trying to mitigate and avoid any violence escalating,” she said.

Suki Sin, a 43-year-old beautician, told HKFP she was motivated to join the rally after seeing footage of protesters assaulting police officers on television.

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Suki Sin. Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

“I think the police are reasonable because they will only use tear gas and force when the youngsters have done something wrong,” Sin said. “We just want peace in Hong Kong.”

Alex Yeung, owner of Wah Kee Restaurant, told HKFP that he is instructing residents to remain indoors over the weekend owing to potential unrest, particularly around police stations across the city.

“I want to tell young people – stop destroying Hong Kong,” he added. “If you love Hong Kong, stop what you’re doing. Please, behave yourselves.”

The rally began shortly after an anti-government, anti-police protest began in Kowloon. Riot police shot projectiles as they swept through Nathan Road in Mong Kok after some demonstrators strayed from the approved route and besieged the local police station.

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.