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HONG KONG – As Hong Kong implemented its national security law on Wednesday, July 1, thousands defied the ban on protests against it. Incidentally, the protests took place on the anniversary of the city’s handover to China in 1997.
Tommy Walker reports:
TOMMY WALKER, REPORTING: The national security law came into effect on Tuesday, June 30 at 11 pm.
Its first full day in effect came on Wednesday, July 1, coinciding with the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from Great Britain in 1997 – 23 years ago.
Large protests were expected.
The Civil Human Rights Front – a pro-democracy group responsible for some of Hong Kong’s biggest rallies – applied for the protest to be approved with the Hong Kong police.
However, the authorities rejected the application, citing social distancing laws and previous history of violence during the events.
Thousands of protesters defied this decision and took to the streets anyway, even under the newly passed national security law.
The law states that those who are found guilty of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces can face a maximum sentence of life in jail.
Further crimes include inciting hatred of China’s central government, damaging public transport can be deemed as terrorism, while some national security cases can be decided without a jury.
Laws can also be broken abroad, even by non-residents.
Wednesday’s demonstration was due to start at 2 pm in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Island.
However, protesters, activists, and police were grouping around midday.
With numbers growing, so were the slogans, chants, and pro-democracy songs.
Soon after, protesters, activists, and police began arguing with police attempting to disperse crowds.
The new purple flag was raised to warn groups that it was potentially breaching the new national security law.
Pepper spray was used aggressively by police to keep back the press and activists.
Protesters still decided to march in and around the Causeway Bay area, often being redirected by police cordon lines.
Some first-aid responders and innocent bystanders were hurt by more pepper spray being deployed.
As numbers filtered out away from Causeway Bay, protesters soon found themselves on the long stretch of Hennessy Road.
As we’ve seen in the past, violent games of cat and mouse ensued, with protesters occupying the streets and building roadblocks until the police would come and clear.
The police also fired pepper balls at protesters, while also using a water cannon to disperse numbers.
There were also reports of minimal tear gas being fired.
It was also reported that a police officer was stabbed in the arm by a protester with a knife.
Arrests were made throughout the day.
Three hundred seventy (370) arrests were made, including 10 who breached the national security law.
Some of those arrested were escorted away in a coach.
Despite the national security law being in place, protesters still defiantly took to their streets in the thousands as the night drew to a close around 9 pm.
Despite the national security law now fully in play, its first full day active in Hong Kong, we’ve seen tens of thousands of protesters take to the streets and have had clashes with the police all day.
Right here, in Henessey Road, by Causeway Bay, to Wan Chai here in Hong Kong Island, we’ve seen pepper spray, we’ve seen pepper balls, we’ve seen water cannon juice, arrests, tension has still been the same here – Hong Kong is still discontent.
And despite the new security law in place, I don’t expect this to be the last. – Rappler.com
Tommy Walker is a freelance multimedia reporter and correspondent. He covers news, politics, health, and travel, and has reported on events and stories relating to North Korea, Colombia, Venezuela, France, and Russia. He is based in Hong Kong.