Dozens of demonstrators have gathered in Causeway Bay as of 13:30 (local time) on Wednesday, July 1, to protest China's new national security law for Hong Kong. Reports indicate that pepper spray has been deployed on the crowds. The police have also warned that action will be taken against protesters who refuse to leave the area and there have been reports of police arresting demonstrators. Separately, pro-democracy activists are calling for supporters to gather at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay at 14:00 before marching to the government's headquarters on Tim Mei Avenue in Admiralty at 15:00. It is unclear how many people will participate given that authorities previously prohibited the gathering.
Further protests across the territory are possible in the coming hours and 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 While the bill was withdrawn in September, mass protests continue to be organized to demand government reforms and police accountability over violence since the start of the demonstrations.
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 proposed introducing the controversial new security law in May 2020. The law came into effect on the evening of June 30; under the new legislation, individuals can be arrested for being directly or indirectly involved in secession, subversion, terrorist activities, or collusion with a foreign country or other external elements that could endanger national security. The maximum sentence for violating the law is life imprisonment. A new Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People's Government will also be set up in Hong Kong to assist in dealing with national security issues. Under certain conditions, the new Office will be allowed to prosecute individuals under mainland Chinese law.
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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