Hong Kong police fired pepper pellets and arrested 300 people when thousands of people took to the streets on Wednesday to resent the national security legislation proposed by China, which has raised international concerns about freedoms in the city.
In the heart of the financial district, the riot police fired pepper pellets to disperse a crowd, and elsewhere in the city, the police gathered groups of dozen suspected demonstrators and left them on sidewalks before ransacking their belongings.
A strong police presence around the Legislative Council prevented demonstrators from interrupting the debate over a law that would punish disregard for the Chinese national anthem. The bill is expected to enter into force next month.
Angry at the perceived threats to the freedoms of the semi-autonomous city, people of all ages took to the streets, some dressed in black, some in office clothes or school uniforms, and some hiding their faces under open umbrellas in scenes reminiscent of the unrest that shook Kong in Hong Kong last year.
"Although you are afraid of your heart, you have to say something," said Chang, 29, an employee and demonstrator in black with a helmet ventilator and safety glasses in her backpack.
Many shops, banks and offices closed early.
The recent protests follow the Chinese government's proposal for a national security law to combat secession, subversion, and terrorism in Hong Kong.
According to the proposed laws, Chinese secret services could set up bases in Hong Kong.
The proposal, which was unveiled in Beijing last week, triggered the first major street riots in Hong Kong in months on Sunday. The police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse the demonstrators.
The United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and others have raised concerns about legislation, which is widely regarded as a possible turning point for China's freest city and one of the world's major financial centers.
However, the Chinese authorities and the Beijing-backed government in Hong Kong say the city's high level of autonomy is not at risk and the new security law would be tightly focused.
"It is for the long-term stability of Hong Kong and China, it will not affect freedom of assembly and speech, and it will not affect the city's status as a financial center," Hong Kong chief secretary Matthew Cheung told reporters.
US President Donald Trump, already at odds with Beijing over the trade and new coronavirus pandemic, said Tuesday that the United States would announce a strong response to planned legislation this week.
China replied that it would take the necessary countermeasures against foreign interference.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen promised humanitarian aid to all people in Hong Kong who are fleeing to the self-governing island.
Asian stocks slid over the growing tension between the US and China. Hong Kong's stock market declined 0.46%. (MKTS / GLOB)
Demonstrators in a downtown mall sang "Free Hong Kong! Revolution of Our Time" and "Independence from Hong Kong, The Only Way Out".
A protester was seen with a sign that reads "One country, two systems is a lie" that related to a political system that was introduced when the city was surrendered to China in 1997 and that gave Hong Kong freedoms until at least 2047 guarantee.
"I'm afraid … if you don't come out today you will never be able to get out. This is legislation that affects us directly," said Ryan Tsang, a hotel manager.
As protests eased in the financial district, hundreds of people gathered in the Mong Kok workers' district on the Kowloon Peninsula, where protests have repeatedly erupted in the past year. The demonstrators there blocked the streets briefly before they were driven out by the police.
According to the police, around 300 people were arrested in three districts, most for illegal assembly.
In an interview with Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, Hong Kong Security Minister John Lee said the police had introduced new tactics to control situations when "something happened".
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)