HK arrests protesters ahead of controversial law discussion

At least 15 people were arrested here on Wednesday by security forces, who have been deployed in greater numbers on the streets in recent hours, ahead of a controversial bill criminalising disrespect to the Chinese anthem being presented before in the Legislative Council.

Moreover, two teenagers were reportedly arrested for having been found to be in possession of Molotov cocktails, the island’s state media RTHK reported.

For its part, the Hong Kong government said in a statement that since 05.30 am local time Wednesday, several individuals tried to block some streets in an attempt to block traffic in protest, Efe news reported.

Meanwhile, several protesters circulated messages on the internet urging people to go to the Legislative Council to express their opposition to the bill.

The discussion on the so-called National Anthem Bill comes at a tense moment in the semi-autonomous city.

Last week, protests and clashes took place between demonstrators and the police after it news broke out that the Chinese legislature planned to pass a national security law that could cut down on freedoms in the semi-autonomous city.

According to Chinese National People’s Congress (NPC, or the legislature), the national security law will prohibit “any act of treason, secession, sedition and subversion” against the central government, in addition to the “theft of state secrets and the organization of activities in Hong Kong by foreign political organisations,” terms that the Chinese Executive has previously used to curb dissent.

This move comes after nearly a year of pro-democracy mobilizations that have severely jolted Hong Kong’s economy and also resulted in clashes between the police and several violent protesters.

Article 23 of the Basic Law (which governs Hong Kong) stipulates that the city must endorse legislation on security made by Beijing, something that has always been extremely controversial among the population for fear that it would result in a reduction of freedoms.

Among the seven articles proposed by Beijing, there is a provision for a legal mechanism allowing the NPC to make laws against a number of cases, including “subversion of state power”, an accusation frequently used against human rights activists in China.

Hong Kong has been gripped for several years by political unrest and demonstrations, which had been gaining momentum in the months leading up to the coronavirus outbreak, which led to them being suspended.

The territory was returned to Chinese control in 1997 after a century and a half of British rule, after London and Beijing signed a joint declaration in 1984 under which the UK renounced its last Asian colony.

This deal established a series of freedoms in the city for 50 years, many of which do not exist on mainland China.