Armed riot police were present as a crowd of several hundred people moved from Jordan to Mong Kok in the Kowloon district, staging what was supposed to be a “silent protest” against the proposed law.
However, chants and slogans were shouted to the police and scuffles later broke out in Mong Kok, prompting the police to use pepper spray to subdue parts of the crowd.
Hong Kong police said on Facebook that 53 people had been arrested and charged with unlawful assembly, adding that earlier some protesters had attempted to block roads in the area.
The national security bill has raised concerns among Hong Kong democracy activists and some foreign governments that Beijing is further eroding the extended autonomy promised when Britain returned territory to China in 1997.
“Governments want to silence us and evict us,” said protester Roy Chan, 44. “We must stand up and shoot down all those who deprive the freedom of the people of Hong Kong. ”
The Sunday event came a day after Hong Kong police refused to authorize an annual march generally held on July 1 to mark the handover in 1997, citing the ban on large rallies in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
China has said the new security law will only target a small group of troublemakers as it tackles separatism, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference in Hong Kong.
On Sunday, the standing committee of the Chinese National People’s Congress considered a bill.
Chinese state media have reported that lawmakers overwhelmingly supported the project. The Chinese government has “an unwavering determination to push ahead with the passing of the security bill and safeguard national sovereignty and interests,” the state-run CCTV reported, citing a government spokesperson.
Scott Murdoch report; Additional reports by Jessie Pang, Tyrone Siu and Joyce Zhou; Editing by Christopher Cushing, Tom Hogue, Frances Kerry and Peter Graff
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