Crowds rally in support of the Hong Kong police at the city's Tamar Park on Saturday. More than 476,000 people reportedly participated. (Photo/China Daily)
Nearly half a million people gathered at Tamar Park in Hong Kong on Saturday afternoon, sending out a loud call for an end to the violence and radicalism that has clouded the city since mid-June.
Braving light rain, 476,000 people demanded an end to all violence and the desecration of national flags and emblems, as well as a halt to attacks on police stations and public facilities.
The participants chanted slogans while waving placards, banners and the flags of the nation and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
The city was fed up with the endless illegal marches, they said.
The rally was held after a tough week for the people of Hong Kong, with the city's aviation hub — Hong Kong International Airport — forced to cancel about 1,000 flights on Monday and Tuesday. In addition, a mainland tourist and reporter were assaulted by black-clad radicals at the airport on Tuesday night.
"Hong Kong was built up by Chinese people, not the British. And the young people here are throwing all of that away. I'm disgusted by it," said Erich Beck, a retired Australian who has lived in Hong Kong for 28 years.
Beck believes overseas elements are at play in the recent violent protests that have rocked the city, with the intent to "poison Hong Kong" in order to hurt China. He joined hundreds of thousands of local residents in an anti-violence rally on Hong Kong Island on Saturday afternoon.
Beck called on the city's young people to think rationally about their behavior.
"How are you going to make the city better if it has all been thrown away?" he said.
The rally started at 5 pm, when people from all walks of life took the stage to share their thoughts and common wishes. They included people from the education and legal sectors, the entertainment industry and the business sector.
Tam Yiu-chung, a Hong Kong member of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, called on the participants to salute the Hong Kong police who have been fearlessly maintaining social order. His appeal drew a loud cheer of approval from the crowd.
Tam also warned those who desecrated the national flag "not to be enemies of 1.4 billion Chinese people". The flag and national emblem represent the dignity of the country and cannot be undermined, he said.
Maria Tam Wai-chu, deputy director of the Hong Kong SAR Basic Law Committee of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, said things that damage the overall public interest are not negotiable. For example, it's not acceptable for protesters to demand blanket amnesty for those arrested in connection with violence, she said.
The rally ended peacefully at around 6 pm.
On Sunday, anti-government protesters held a rally that moved from a packed park to a major road amid heavy rain. The HKSAR government expressed regret over the rally, at which slogans targeted the police.
Although the rally was generally peaceful, participants occupied several major roads of Hong Kong Island, severely affecting transportation and causing inconvenience to the public, a spokesperson for the government said.
The city's priority is restoring social order as soon as possible, the spokesperson said, adding that the government and members of the public will talk to restore social harmony after order returns.
Taxi driver Tso Tag-ming said he felt helpless about Sunday's situation. Blocking the main roads made it difficult to anywhere on Hong Kong Island, he said. His income yesterday was one-third of what it used to be, he said.
On Saturday, a spokesman for the country's top legislature said recent statements made by U.S. politicians violated the spirit of the rule of law and interfered with China's internal affairs.
You Wenze, a spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress, said some U.S. politicians have glorified violent crimes in Hong Kong as protests for human rights and freedom, while smearing as violent suppression Hong Kong police efforts at law enforcement and maintaining social order.