289 arrested in HK for protesting against security law

At least 289 people were arrested as protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong to demonstrate against the China-imposed national security law and the city government’s decision to postpone the legislative elections for a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was reported on Monday.

There was a heavy police presence in the Kowloon area late into Sunday night, hours after officers had used both pepper spray and pepper balls in dispersal operations against the anti-government protesters, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) newspaper reported.

This came after scattered groups of people had heeded online calls by anonymous activists, who aimed to mobilise 50,000 protesters on what would have been Legislative Council polls day.

The groups that gathered in Kowloon’s Jordan neighbourhood were small at first, but protesters later spread to nearby Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei.

Amongst the arrested persons, one woman was taken into custody on suspicion of violating the national security law for chanting slogans that promoted Hong Kong independence.

Hong Kong residents were supposed to be casting their votes on Sunday to choose lawmakers for the next term.

But the government postponed the elections in late July, citing public health risks because of the resurgent coronavirus outbreak.

Critics, however, said the move was politically motivated.

In a statement, the government strongly condemned the protest and said such unauthorised assemblies could significantly increase the risk for Covid-19 to spread, said the SCMP report.

A spokesman said the national security law, which bans acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, was constitutional, reasonable, and in line with the “one country, two systems” principle.

Last time the people arrested over 100 people was on July 1 when 370 persons were detained for various offences as thousands gathered against the security law, which had been imposed on the city the previous day.