(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong police made their first arrests under sweeping national security legislation that has dramatically curtailed dissent in the city -- less than 24 hours after Chinese lawmakers handed it down.
Earlier in the day, Chief Executive Carrie Lam called the law the “most important development” in relations between Hong Kong and China since the city’s handover from British rule in 1997, despite concerns about what the measure will mean for its future autonomy from the mainland. The legislation calls for sentences as long as life in prison for the most serious cases of terrorism, secession, subversion of state power and collusion with foreign forces.
The law came into force just ahead of the July 1 anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997, a symbolic occasion usually marked by mass protests. Hundreds of protesters came out in the afternoon in Causeway Bay, and news outlet HK01 reported that tear gas had been used on demonstrators there. Police said they arrested more than 300 people Wednesday, including nine suspected of violating the national security law.
Read more about the law here
- China publishes details of law; took effect July 1
- Hong Kong police make first arrests under legislation
- Beijing official calls law ‘sword of Damocles’
- Most important development in relations since handover: Lam
- Hundreds of protesters gather in central areas
Nine arrests made under law (8:42 p.m.)
More than 300 people were arrested Wednesday, including nine suspected of violating the national security law, Hong Kong police said on Twitter.
Police said earlier that other alleged offenses included participating in unauthorized assemblies, disorderly conduct, and possession of offensive weapon. Earlier in the day, police said on Facebook that an arrest had been made under the security law after they detained a woman who displayed a sign reading “Hong Kong Independence.”
They also tweeted their first arrest, less than 24 hours after China imposed the law, of a man holding a Hong Kong independence flag in Causeway Bay.
Crowds march toward Fortress Hill (4:25 p.m.)
Hundreds of protesters marched down King’s Road toward the Fortress Hill neighborhood. In Causeway Bay, police used pepper spray balls to disperse demonstrators near the Times Square shopping center.
Crowds blocked from marching toward Admiralty (3:05 p.m.)
Demonstrators who had gathered in Causeway Bay tried marching toward Admiralty -- the neighborhood home to the city’s legislature and central government offices that saw some of last year’s biggest protests -- but were stopped after police blocked the road.
There was a heavy police presence in the area on main thoroughfare Queen’s Road East. Officers also fired a water cannon at demonstrators on Hennessy Road in Causeway Bay.
Hundreds of protesters gather (2:50 p.m.)
Several hundred demonstrators came out in Causeway Bay, near the well-known Sogo shopping center. Their chants were similar to those heard over months of pro-democracy protests last year, including: “Liberate Hong Kong! Revolution of our time!”
“To a lot of Hong Kongers, this may be the last time we can gather to protest against the regime,” said a 31-year-old freelancer on Lockhart Road who gave his name as Law. “We don’t know if there will be any more opportunities for us to go on the streets for the same cause. Maybe we won’t be able to protest ever again for the rest of our lives.”
Police said they had arrested more than 30 people for offenses including the violation of the security law, illegal assembly, obstructing police officers and possessing weapons. They didn’t specify how many of those people had been detained under the new law.
“I won’t stop voicing my opinions, but maybe I will do it more discreetly in the future,” Law said.
Lam says law shows ‘trust’ in local leaders (2:12 p.m.)
City leader Carrie Lam briefed reporters at the central government offices in Admiralty against a backdrop showing Hong Kong’s skyline and the full name of the law. China’s law shows a “high degree of trust” in Hong Kong’s leaders and Beijing’s determination to improve “one country, two systems,” she said.
Police raise new warning flag (2:11 p.m.)
Hong Kong police raised a new purple warning flag to a small number of protesters gathered in Causeway Bay.
“This is a police warning. You are displaying flags or banners / chanting slogans / or conducting yourselves with an intent such as secession or subversion, which may constitute offences under the ‘HKSAR National Security Law,’” the police force tweeted, alongside a photo of the flag. “You may be arrested and prosecuted.”
China calls law ‘sword of Damocles’ (12 p.m.)
Chinese officials called the legislation a “sword of Damocles” at a briefing held by the State Council Information Office in Beijing that lasted nearly two and a half hours.
“The law is a ‘sword of Damocles’ hanging above extremely few criminals who are severely endangering national security,” said Zhang Xiaoming, the deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. It “will deter foreign forces who try to interfere with Hong Kong affairs. The law is a turning point to put Hong Kong back on its track.”
Most important development in relations: Lam (8:35 a.m.)
Chief Executive Lam reiterated that the law wouldn’t impact Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy or judicial independence as she addressed a reception at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center in Wanchai, which held the handover ceremony in 1997.
“This legislation is considered the most important development in the relationship between the central and Hong Kong governments since the handover, and is a historic step in improving the mechanisms to safeguard the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and security,” she said.
Lam also said this year’s anniversary had major significance, as the Chinese anthem -- played at the flag raising ceremony and opening of the reception -- was now protected by the city’s new national anthem law.
Trump says he’s getting angry with China (6:52 a.m.)
U.S. President Donald Trump said he’s becoming “more and more angry at China” over the spread of the pandemic, in a tweet that didn’t reference the country’s actions in Hong Kong.
The territory is waiting to see if his administration will implement more sanctions against Chinese or Hong Kong officials in response to the security law passed on Tuesday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier called on Trump to deploy sanctions against Chinese officials under the 2016 Magnitsky Act and to take steps under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.
“We must consider all tools available, including visa limitations and economic penalties,” Pelosi said in a statement.
U.S. may change refugee rules (6:42 a.m.)
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators is proposing giving refugee status to Hong Kong residents at risk of persecution by the government for taking part in protests.
The legislation was introduced Tuesday in response to the government in Beijing adopting a new national security law that asserts broad new powers over Hong Kong to rein in critics.
“Following last night’s implementation of Beijing’s National Security Law, the U.S. must help Hong Kongers preserve their society at home and find refuge for those who face persecution for exercising the rights once guaranteed under the Joint Declaration,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio said in a statement.
Senators Propose Giving Hong Kong Residents Priority as Refugees
Australia says law undermines autonomy (6:23 a.m.)
Foreign Minister Marise Payne followed the U.K. in expressing “deep concern” over the legislation. “That this decision was made without the direct participation of Hong Kong’s people, legislature or judiciary is a further cause for concern,” she said in a statement. “The people of Hong Kong will make their own assessments of how this decision will affect their city’s future. The eyes of the world will remain on Hong Kong.” Tensions between Australia and China have risen in recent months.
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