Hong Kong cops arrest 53 people during protests, Latest World News - The New Paper

Hong Kong cops arrest 53 people during protests

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HONG KONG: Police in Hong Kong arrested 53 people during protests on Tuesday that saw hundreds of activists take to the streets, at times blocking roads in the heart of the global financial hub, before police fired pepper spray to disperse crowds.

The protests, called to mark a year of pro-democracy rallies in the former British colony, also came amid heightened tensions due to a proposed national security Bill backed by the central government in Beijing.

Police said yesterday they were arrested for offences including unlawful assembly and participating in unauthorised assembly.

Protesters had defied a ban on gatherings of more than eight people introduced by the Hong Kong government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

More protests are planned in coming days, with pro-democracy supporters fearing the proposed national security legislation will dramatically stifle freedoms in the city.

While details of the security law or how it will operate have yet to be revealed, the authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have said there is no cause for concern and the legislation will target a minority of "troublemakers".

Hong Kong Security Secretary John Lee told the South China Morning Post in an interview published yesterday that local police were setting up a dedicated unit to enforce the law and it would have intelligence gathering, investigation and training capabilities.

Companies including HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank have backed the security law without knowing the details of it, drawing criticism from investors and US and British officials.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo singled out HSBC on Tuesday, saying such "corporate kowtows" got little in return from Beijing and criticising the Chinese Communist Party's "coercive bullying tactics".

Hong Kong's year of pro-democracy protests was sparked by a Bill that would have allowed people to be extradited to mainland China.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam withdrew that Bill as the protests gathered pace, but activists remained concerned that China is reneging on an agreement signed with Britain ahead of the 1997 handover to allow Hong Kong to retain a high level of autonomy for 50 years from that date. - REUTERS