Hong Kong protests: Thousands rally in support of police and Beijing

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Many protesters waved Chinese flags at the rally in Tamar Park

Tens of thousands of pro-Beijing protesters are rallying in support of the police in Hong Kong.

The demonstrators, dressed in white and blue and waving Chinese flags, oppose the anti-extradition protests that have taken over the city this month.

Two record-breaking rallies were held against a proposed law that would see suspects extradited to mainland China.

On 12 June police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds - the worst violence in the city in decades.

Hong Kong's justice secretary Teresa Cheng later ruled out an investigation into police brutality.

However, the demonstrations forced the government to apologise and suspend the planned bill.

How big is the pro-police rally?

Local media say about 165,000 pro-Beijing protesters turned up to the rally in Tamar Park on Sunday.

This is far fewer than the number of people who protested against the extradition bill - activist groups put the figure at about two million for the latest rally.

However it is a sign of significant pro-Beijing movement in the territory.

Image source, AFP

"I can't put up with people's behaviour towards police," Frances Yu, 70, told AFP news agency.

A 54-year-old office worker, who gave his name only as Wong, also told AFP police were trying to "maintain order", and called the anti-extradition protesters "senseless".

A few dozen counter-protesters have also been demonstrating nearby.

Why have people been protesting?

The controversial bill would have allowed extradition to mainland China, Taiwan and Macau for suspects accused of crimes such as rape and murder.

Hong Kong has been part of China since 1997 under the "one country, two systems" principle, which allows it freedoms not seen on the mainland, including judicial independence.

But protesters fear the bill could bring Hong Kong more decisively under China's control.

Now that the bill has been suspended, protesters have four basic demands:

  • the complete withdrawal of the bill
  • the revocation of the term "riot" to describe the 12 June protests
  • the release of all detained activists
  • the investigation of police violence

Joshua Wong, one of the leaders of pro-democracy protests in 2014, was released early from jail on 17 June.

Media caption,
"Carrie Lam must step down" - Joshua Wong

Addressing supporters and the media after his release, he called for the city's Beijing-backed leader Carrie Lam to stand down.

Will there be any more anti-extradition rallies?

Another mass rally against the extradition bill is being planned for Monday, to coincide with the 22nd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China.

Hong Kong Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung has appealed for calm.

In a blog post addressed to the protesters, he wrote: "It is imperative to restore social order and tranquillity as soon as possible, to stabilise the business environment and bring Hong Kong back on track.

"Hong Kong is my home - there is no difference between you and me."