Security forces utilized pepper pellets as protests take place across Hong Kong amid a heightened security presence on Wednesday, May 27, due to the second reading of a controversial bill at the Legislative Council (Legco). The bill would make it a crime to denigrate the Chinese national anthem. Hundreds of people gathered at the intersection of Queen's Road Central and D'Aguilar Street in Central district and were met by at least 100 police officers, who fired pepper pellets and arrested several of the protesters. Earlier, at least 80 people were detained as protesters gathered at Hysan Place in Causeway Bay. Unrest was also reported in the afternoon (local time) in Mong Kok, with protesters attempting to block Portland Street before being dispersed by police. There are emerging reports of protesters and security forces also clashing on Nathan Road in Mog Kok district.
In total 240 people have reportedly been arrested so far across the territory on Wednesday, including people found possessing offensive weapons such as petrol bombs. While demonstrators were initially expected to gather outside the Legco complex in Central district, the large security presence deployed there appears to have resulted in more widespread demonstrations taking place in various locations of downtown Hong Kong, as well as Mong Kok, Kowloon, and other districts.
Further protests across the territory are possible in the coming hours and these may result in confrontations with security forces. A heightened security presence and transportation disruptions are to be expected in the vicinity of all protests.
Demonstrations have been held throughout Hong Kong since June 2019 to protest a controversial extradition bill, which would have allowed authorities in Hong Kong to extradite fugitives wanted in mainland China and other territories. While the bill was withdrawn on September 4, mass protests continue to be organized to demand government reforms and police accountability over violence since the start of the demonstrations. Pro-democracy candidates won 389 of the 452 seats in the territory's district council elections on November 24. The pro-democracy movement victory and the high turnout (71 percent) of the vote suggest that the public continues to support protests. Over 8000 people have been arrested since the protests began.
After a break in protests due to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, demonstrations have increased in frequency since the relaxation of COVID-19 measures in late April. There has also been an uptick in protest activity since Beijing prosed introducing a security law in May 2020 that would ban treason, secession, sedition, and subversion. However, as of May 27, public gatherings of more than eight people remain forbidden due to the virus.
Individuals in Hong Kong are advised to monitor developments, avoid all protests as a precaution, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.
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