Scuffles broke out between hundreds of supporters of an outspoken teacher and her detractors in Mong Kok yesterday as both sides staged political rallies that erupted into chaos.
The protests were triggered by an online video of Alpais Lam Wai-sze, a primary school teacher at Pui Ling School of the Precious Blood in Fanling, in which she is seen shouting at police officers over their handling of a dispute between the Falun Gong and the Youth Care Association.
Yesterday's rallies escalated into a political row with some protesters storming a stage set up for a pro-police rally and waving the colonial Hong Kong flag, as well as Taiwanese, Tibetan and British flags. They also chanted slogans in support of Lam.
The pro-police rally was delayed by about half an hour and only managed to start with the help of officers who built a human chain to separate supporters and their opposition.
The organisers, the Parents' Association of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Action - who were protesting against the teacher - said the rally was to "support police to enforce laws strictly" and to keep "obscenity culture away from schools".
Leticia Lee See-yin of the Parents' Association said they were not attacking Lam personally. "We aren't against her [Lam] ... I think she lost her emotions [when shouting at officers]."
Gregory Lau Tat-keung, a former superintendent of Sham Shui Po district, said on stage: "Tolerant officers does not mean weak officers."
Next to the pro-police rally, radical lawmaker Wong Yuk-man led a crowd in the pro-Lam rally by chanting foul language and condemning what they said was an all-out effort by pro-police groups to intimidate Lam.
"If we don't back Ms Lam today, the next target will be us," Wong said.
The video was recorded on July 14 when Lam openly criticised the way police were dealing with the dispute involving the Falun Gong. Police threatened to arrest Lam when she asked for an explanation of why they had cordoned off the area near Sai Yeung Choi Street where the dispute was taking place.
Lam shouted foul language at the officers. The video was later uploaded onto YouTube and went viral late last month.
Police estimated that about 2,800 people took part in the rallies at their peak. All shops on the street level of the area closed their doors for more than two hours.