Aug. 25 (UPI) -- Hong Kong police on Monday defended officers who pulled guns on protesters during a demonstration the night before.
Senior Superintendent Yolanda Yu of the Police Public Relations Branch said in a press conference that police condemned the "extreme violence" by "rioters" Sunday night while defending the six officers who drew their service weapons, saying they did so because their "lives were under threat."
The weapons were pulled to protect themselves and others at Sha Tsui Road where police and protesters clashed at around 8 p.m. following an afternoon march during the 12th consecutive week of mass protests in Hong Kong, she said.
On Sunday, a group of protesters separated from the main march, using traffic cones and street railings to build barricades and throw bricks and petrol bombs at police.
Police deployed tear gas but failed to disperse the group and later fired water cannons at the makeshift barricade.
During the confrontation, one officer shot a round into the air, the first live ammunition fired during the three months of protests.
Yolanda said Monday morning that the officer fired his weapon in order to protect another officer who had fallen as protesters charged.
"The officer acted heroically and with restraint, and the force used under the circumstances was necessary and reasonable," she said, adding that no one was injured as a result of the officer's actions.
In a statement, police said 15 officers were injured and sent to the hospital while 29 men and seven women, ranging in ages from 12 to 48, were arrested for offenses including unlawful assembly, possession of offensive weapon and assaulting police officers.
"The protesters' violence disregarded the law and order," the police said in the statement. "Police severely condemn such violence, which was outrageous and have overstepped the bottom line of a civilized society."
The police department said on Twitter that commissioner Lo Wai-chung visited the injured officers at Princess Margaret Hospital and that the police force "will strive to investigate all violent acts that have caused serious and even life-threatening injuries."
Meanwhile, police supporters held their own rally on Sunday, calling for communication between police and the public to "mend the broken relationship."
Senior police officials said some officers had their personal data, including contact information and home addresses shared online and 16 people were arrested for disclosing personal data without consent, causing harm and unauthorized access to a computer.
"After two months everyone is tired. Can we sit down and talk about it?" she said.
Hong Kong has been rocked with protests since early June against a bill that would allow for extradition to mainland China, a move activists view as a chipping away at the rights Hong Kong enjoys as a semi-autonomous region. They also view the law a possible weapon to use against critics of the Chinese government.
The protests have since evolved into a larger pro-democracy movement following claims of police brutality and anger at the local government for not heeding their demands, which include the resignation of Lam.