Hong Kong police have made their first arrests under a new “anti-protest” law imposed by Beijing, as crowds marked 23 years since the end of British rule. Police say two people were held for breaching the new law, including a man holding a pro-independence flag. Dozens of others were arrested during a rally.
The national security law targets secession, subversion and terrorism with punishments up to life in prison. Activists say it erodes freedoms but China has dismissed the criticism. Hong Kong’s sovereignty was handed back to China by Britain in 1997 and certain rights were supposed to be guaranteed for at least 50 years under the “one country, two systems” agreement.
On Wednesday, crowds gathered for the annual pro-democracy rally to mark the anniversary, defying a ban by authorities who cited restrictions on gatherings of more than 50 people because of Covid-19. Police used water cannon and pepper spray on demonstrators and said at least 70 people had been arrested, two of them under the new security law.
It said one of them included a man who was holding a “Hong Kong Independence” flag, though some Twitter users said the picture appeared to show a small “no to” written in front of the slogan, Reuters reported. The man has not been identified, and it was not clear whether he would be prosecuted.