Tens of thousands of pro-China protesters have rallied in Hong Kong, expressing anger at calls for the territory’s independence.
Demonstrators waved Chinese flags, and chanted “oppose Hong Kong independence; support Beijing’s ruling”.
Last week, the Chinese government issued a rare ruling on Hong Kong’s law, effectively disqualifying two pro-independence lawmakers from parliament.
Critics say Beijing’s intervention has undermined Hong Kong’s rule of law.
The row over pro-independence legislators Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching has highlighted deep divisions in the territory, which was handed back to China from the British in 1997, under a promise that it would enjoy a high degree of autonomy.
Mr Leung and Ms Yau used a derogatory term to refer to China, and brought banners that read “Hong Kong is not China”, while they were being sworn into office last month.
Their oaths were invalidated, and a court case into whether they are still eligible to be legislators is currently under way at a Hong Kong court.
Organisers of Sunday’s pro-China protest say 40,000 people attended the rally outside Hong Kong’s parliament, while police estimate 28,500 people were there at the peak of the demonstration.
Maggie Chan, a spokeswoman for an alliance who organised the protests, said she opposed attempts “to separate Hong Kong from our motherland”.
“So many people are very angry because the pro-independence force is a destructive force that is against the rule of law in Hong Kong,” Ms Chan told the BBC.
The pro-Beijing campaign is clearly well organised – and critics have alleged that some participants are paid to take part in pro-China protests.
Ms Chan said the allegations were “made with the intention to lower the alliance’s standing” and described them as “defamatory” claims.
Organisers told participants to be wary of groups attempting to frame them – and told protesters to take photographic evidence if they saw anyone handing out money.
Last week, pro-democracy groups organised a march against Beijing’s ruling, accusing it of abusing its power to block two democratically elected legislators from taking their seats.
Protest organiser Au Ngok-hin told the BBC that Ms Yau and Mr Leung’s actions may be “inappropriate”, but that China’s ruling would “deteriorate Hong Kong’s rule of law”.
Organisers said about 13,000 people took part in that march, while police put the number at 8,000 at the protest’s peak.
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