Police the target of both love and anger in Hong Kong protests
HONG KONG: Several thousand people shouting words of thanks to the police turned out in Hong Kong yesterday in an unusual display of support for a force broadly criticised as abusive by the territory's protest movement.
People made heart signs with their hands at officers. Some called them heroes.
The rally attracted a bigger crowd than a protest against the government a few hundred metres away. Small groups of pro-democracy protesters gathered in shopping malls across Hong Kong amid sporadic scuffles with riot police, with Chief Executive Carrie Lam away on a visit to Beijing.
Groups of masked protesters clad in black marched through malls chanting slogans including "Fight for freedom" and "Return justice to us".
In the Telford Plaza mall in Kowloon Bay, skirmishes broke out with riot police who used pepper spray on crowds and wrestled people to the ground before taking them away.
In Shatin, police fired one tear gas canister outside the New Town Plaza mall and took away several people, according to media reports, after some entrances and walkways were blocked, glass panels smashed and graffiti sprayed.
The police said in a statement that some shops had been damaged and that a smoke bomb had been set off. Many shops closed early.
On Hong Kong island, several hundred people, many of them social workers, gathered peacefully to reiterate demands that include full democracy and an independent inquiry into allegations of police brutality. Some called for more strikes, while others sat at tables to write Christmas cards to those jailed.
"One of our goals is defending social justice," said Chan, 20, who is studying to become a social worker. "We have tried every measure to express our voices... but the government still doesn't listen. We haven't put enough pressure." - AP, REUTERS