HONG KONG — People who said they supported the Hong Kong police rallied under pouring rain on Sunday to criticize the government for its inability to find a solution to the crisis that has left front-line officers clashing with protesters for weeks on end.
Since suspending the legislation that set off the protests in June, a bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, Chief Executive Carrie Lam has done little to respond to the protests, leaving the police force as the most public face of the government.
Sunday’s protest was small, with about 200 people attending, and police officials said it did not represent the views of the whole force. But the organizers’ concerns that respect for the police force is eroding can be seen in police clearances of confrontational protests, when officers are often bombarded with abuse from residents and bystanders.
Ivy Yuen, 40, works for a trading company in Hong Kong, and has regularly attended this summer’s protests. But she came to Sunday’s police families’ rally because she said she could sympathize with the difficult position that police officers had found themselves in.
“There are still some good policemen working for Hong Kong,” she said. “Unfortunately, the government chooses not to do anything.”
“We are all so helpless in this moment,” she continued. “Everybody in Hong Kong: those against the protesters, the protesters themselves, the police. Everybody.”
A march on Saturday ended with the police firing tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who had thrown rocks and at least one gasoline bomb. That clash ended a nearly two-week period of relative calm that saw some standoffs, but not the use of tear gas.
It also followed two large, peaceful demonstrations that showed the continued strength and unity of the protest movement: a march by hundreds of thousands one week ago and the formation of human chains, illuminated by cellphone lights, across miles of Hong Kong on Friday.
The police said that in Saturday’s protests, they arrested 19 men and 10 women, ages 17 to 52, during dispersal operations in the Kwun Tong, Wong Tai Sin and Sham Shui Po neighborhoods. A friend of Ventus Lau, the organizer of the Kwun Tong march, said he had also been arrested.
The rally by supporters of the police, organized under the slogan “We Are Not Enemies,” criticized the government’s use of the police force to manage a political crisis. Its organizers called for an independent committee to investigate the cause of the protests and the official response, and said that misbehavior by some officers was causing the relationship between police officers and the public to “fall into a tragic abyss.”
Police commanders distanced the force from the event. Foo Yat-ting, a senior police superintendent, said “it does not represent the police force or the four police associations at all.”
Mrs. Lam said Saturday that she had met with a group of people, identified in local media reports as former officials and some prominent politicians, to hear ideas for building “a platform for dialogue.”
“I know that in the current predicament, the grievances of the community are deep,” she wrote on Facebook, adding that some people are “very unhappy,” with the government’s unwillingness to respond to protesters’ demands, including a full withdrawal of the extradition bill.
“I don’t expect conversations to easily untie the knot, stop demonstrations, or provide solutions to problems, but to continue to struggle is not a way forward,” she added.
Hong Kong’s subway operator said Sunday that for the second day in a row it was closing stops in an area where a police-authorized protest was planned. Chinese state media had been highly critical of the subway operator, the MTR Corporation, after special service trains were used to disperse protesters from a station in the satellite town of Yuen Long on Wednesday.
That special train service helped prevent a clash Wednesday, but the subway operator was denounced by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, as “working hand in glove with rioters.”
The MTR Corporation said Sunday it was closing three stations served by two lines in the Tsuen Wan area because of the protests, after closing four stations in the Kwun Tong area on Saturday. The closures were criticized not just for preventing participation in authorized protests, but also for inconveniencing other rail users. Graffiti in the Choi Hung station called the MTR “party rail.”
Adi Lau, the MTR operations director, said in a message posted Saturday on Facebook that the violence and vandalism in MTR stations in recent months had been “the biggest challenge that MTR had faced in four decades.” He said the decision to close stations was done in conjunction with the police force and other government departments, and was made out of safety considerations, including concerns from employees who felt threatened.
The MTR also obtained a court injunction on Friday against anyone interfering with train operations, damaging property or causing disturbances. Two weeks ago the airport authority also obtained an interim injunction to restrict access after protests led to canceled flights, chaos and violence in the airport.