Thousands back rally for Hong Kong police as protests 'go too far'
Several thousand people have turned out in Hong Kong in an unusual display of support for the police force during the long-running protests against the government.
It came as riot officers clashed elsewhere with protesters and pepper-sprayed a crowd yesterday.
Competing rallies on Hong Kong Island and wildcat protest actions, including vandalism by black-clad youths at shopping centres, exposed the deep gulf between pro and anti-establishment camps carved out by six months of demonstrations that have shaken and split the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Truncheon-wielding riot officers fanned out at a shopping centre where demonstrators spray-painted protest slogans on the polished stone floor and smashed glass.
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Watched by shoppers, officers pepper-sprayed bystanders and made several arrests, pinning detainees to the floor and marching them away.
The scene was completely different at a waterfront park on Hong Kong Island, where a large crowd showered love on the 30,000-strong police force, broadly criticised as heavy-handed by the protest movement.
The rally echoed the Hong Kong government's view that protesters have become unacceptably violent.
Pro-police demonstrators described protesters as rioters and terrorists, and officers as gallant heroes. They used heart gestures and thumbs-up signs and shouted words of thanks at officers who policed the sidelines of the rally.
One woman yelled they looked handsome in uniform.
Max Cheng, an IT worker who took part, said: "I'm not against the protesters. It's OK for them to speak but in a peaceful way."
When mass anti-government demonstrations first erupted in June against a proposed extradition law, Ms Cheng said she was among the hundreds of thousands who marched.
But she said she later felt repulsed by violence that increasingly accompanied protests.
She said she did not demonstrate again until yesterday, when she came out to support police, who have shot 26,000 tear-gas and rubber-baton rounds and arrested more than 6,000 people during the six months of snowballing protests.
"It has just gone too far," she said. "People are too upset, too divided and very emotional."