More than 300 people have been arrested in Hong Kong protests Wednesday, including nine accused of violating a new national security law that Western powers argue takes away the territory’s semi-autonomous status and gives China unprecedented power over the city.
Thousands gathered in Hong Kong’s Times Square on Wednesday to protest against the national security law, raising their hands in the air, chanting and displaying signage in favor of Hong Kong independence.
“More than 300 people have been arrested in #HongKong so far for [offenses] like unlawful assemblies, disorderly conduct in public places, furious driving, and breach of the #NationalSecurityLaw, which accounted for 9 arrests (5 males & 4 females),” the Hong Kong Police Force said in an update.
“Arrest action is underway. Stop breaking the law,” the agency tweeted in an earlier message.
Police shared photos of supposed contraband – including flyers and large signs that voiced support for Hong Kong’s independence – which were seized from protesters specifically charged with violating the national security law that criminalizes anti-government movements.
“Three females were arrested respectively for showing materials with #HKIndependence slogans in #CausewayBay, violating #NSL,” the agency wrote, sharing photos of pro-democracy leaflets and fliers. “Anyone who [organizes], plans, commits or participates in committing secession or undermining national unification shall be guilty of an [offense].”
Another female was arrested in Hong Kong’s upscale retail district known as Causeway Bay for showing material with a Hong Kong independence slogan. Hong Kong Police said it will take “resolute enforcement action” in accordance with the national security law.
Earlier on Wednesday, the agency announced its first arrest since the national security law came into force after a man was seen in Causeway Bay with a large Hong Kong Independence flag.
Protesters attempted to march toward the Wan Chai neighborhood but were intercepted by swarms of riot police. A video posted by a Bloomberg Asia showed a man who was down on the crowd being dragged by riot police before officers sealed off Jaffe Road in Wan Chai.
Hong Kong Police also shared bloody photos of a man’s shoulder and announced “an officer was stabbed in the arm by rioters holding sharp objects when he was taking arrest action. While the bystanders offered no helping hand, suspects fled. #HKPolice express the strongest condemnation against such violent act.”
The agency raised a “purple warning flag” to notify protesters that chanting Hong Kong Independence slogans might be a breach in the new national security law. Officers were also seen firing a water cannon and deploying tear gas into the crowds, according to Reuters.
Beijing waited until after the national security law was passed Tuesday to release details.
The law punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
It also establishes a national security committee in Hong Kong under Beijing’s control and allows for those accused of offenses to be sent to the mainland for trial. Those who are not permanent residents of Hong Kong may be charged under the national security law as well, according to Chinese state media.
China’s ceremonial legislature known as the National People’s Congress (NPC) first endorsed the national security bill at the end of May, reigniting pro-democracy protests quelled for months during the coronavirus pandemic. The legislature deliberated for about a month before passing the national security bill into law on Tuesday.
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