Hong Kong riot police fired pepper pellets to disperse protesters within the heart of the worldwide financial centre on Wednesday, as new national security laws proposed by Beijing revived anti-government demonstrations.
Police also surrounded the legislature where a bill was thanks to be debated that might criminalise disrespect of the Chinese anthem, amid soaring tensions over perceived threats to the semi-autonomous city’s freedoms.
People of all ages took to the streets, some wearing black, some wearing office clothes, and a few hiding their identities with open umbrellas in scenes like the unrest that shook the town last year.
“Although you’re afraid inside your heart, you would like to talk out,” said Chang, 29, a clerk and protester wearing black with a helmet respirator and goggles in her backpack.
A call to collect round the legislature was scrapped thanks to an important presence of riot police.
Many shops, bank branches and office buildings closed early. Dozens of individuals were seen rounded up by riot police and made to take a seat on a sidewalk.
Protests have returned to the streets of Chinese-ruled Hong Kong after Beijing proposed national security laws aimed toward tackling secession, subversion and terrorist activities. The planned laws could see Chinese intelligence agencies found out bases within the semi-autonomous city.
The move triggered the primary big street unrest in Hong Kong in months on Sunday, with police firing tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters.
The us , Australia, Britain, Canada et al. have expressed concerns about the legislation, widely seen as a possible turning point for China’s freest city and one among the world’s leading financial hubs.
Police said that they had arrested a minimum of 16 people on Wednesday, aged 14-40, for alleged crimes including possession of offensive weapons, possession of tools for illegal use and dangerous driving.
Protesters during a downtown mall chanted “Liberate Hong Kong! Revolution of our times” and “Hong Kong independence, the sole way out”, but dispersed as lookouts shouted a warning to “go shopping!” at the sight of police vans outside.
One protester was seen with a placard reading “one country, two systems may be a lie”, pertaining to the form of government put in situ at Britain’s 1997 handover of the town to China that's meant to ensure Hong Kong’s freedoms until a minimum of 2047.
“I’m scared ... if you don’t begin today, you’ll never be ready to begin . this is often legislation that directly affects us,” said Ryan Tsang, a hotelier .
Chinese authorities and therefore the refore the Beijing-backed government in Hong Kong say there's no threat to the city’s high degree of autonomy and the new security laws are going to be tightly focused.