Hong Kong police make first arrest under new security law

Hong Kong, July 1 (ANI): Hong Kong police on Wednesday made the first arrest under violation of the law, just a day after China's elite Standing Committee imposed the new national security legislation on the semi-autonomous region, CNN reported.

Thousands of Hong Kongers, who saw new dawn with the Chinese imposed restrictions over their autonomy and precious civil and social freedoms, turned out in protest in the busy shopping district of Causeway Bay but were met with a heavy security presence. Police fired pepper spray into the crowd, kettled and dispersed protesters and deployed water cannons.

At least 70 people, including a man who was holding a black independence flag, and soon afterwards a woman with a sign reading "Hong Kong Independence" were arrested by the police.

The new law came into effect in Hong Kong in the lead-up to July 1 -- the 23rd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from British rule to China -- and dramatically broadens the powers of local and mainland authorities to investigate, prosecute and punish dissenters.

In vague language, the legislation criminalises secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers. People convicted of such crimes can face sentences of up to life in prison.

Fearing they could be targeted under the new law, several political and activist groups in the city formally disbanded in advance of the law being introduced on Monday. On the streets, the effects could be seen elsewhere too, as shopkeepers tore down posters that supported anti-government protests and many citizens hastily deleted social media posts and accounts.

July 1 is traditionally a day of protests in the city but for the first time since the handover, police did not give permission to protesters to hold peaceful demonstrations.

Despite the threat of stricter penalties, several hundred protesters did turn out chanting and waving flags. Police demanded they stop shouting pro-independence slogans -- they also unfurled a purple flag warning protesters of being in violation of the new law.

On Wednesday, Hong Kong's top official, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, said the law is a "crucial step to ending chaos and violence that has occurred over the past few months" in the city.

"The national security law is the most important development in securing ties between China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region since the handover," she said, framing criticism of the law as "vicious attacks." (ANI)