Police have arrested at least 300 protesters amid demonstrations taking place across Hong Kong on Wednesday, July 1. Media sources state that these were the police figures as of 20:00 (local time). Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Causeway Bay and Wan Chai on Wednesday over the passing of Beijing's national security law, as the city marked the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from British to Chinese rule.
The anti-government protesters were reportedly arrested for breaching public order, violating the new security law, as well as disobeying current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) social distancing rules.
Local media and social media imagery indicate that some clashes occurred between protesters and riot police in various locations, including in Times Square mall, with riot police firing pepper-spray and utilizing other crowd dispersal measures in attempts to disperse demonstrators.
A heightened security presence and further demonstrations are possible in the coming days across Hong Kong.
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 While the bill was withdrawn in September, mass protests continue to be organized to demand government reforms and police accountability over violence since the start of the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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