At least 90 protesters have been arrested on Sunday, September 6, as pro-democracy activists gathered in Kowloon to demonstrate against the national security law and the government's decision to postpone Legislative Council elections following a rise in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases. According to media sources, police fired pepper balls at anti-government protesters in Mong Kok shortly before 17:00 (local time). A heavy police presence had been reported in the Jordan neighborhood prior to the banned planned demonstration, with 2000 riot police officers deployed across West Kowloon with water cannons. Reports suggest that one protester was arrested on suspicion of violating the national security law, 87 others were arrested on suspicion of illegal assembly, and at least three others detained for disorderly conduct in a public place. Multiple protesters were also fined for violating social-distancing rules.
A heightened security presence should be anticipated in the near term. Further associated demonstrations and clashes between security forces and protesters cannot be ruled out.
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 While the bill was withdrawn in September, mass protests continue to be organized to demand government reforms and police accountability over violence since the start of the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 introduced the controversial new security law in June 2020. 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. The postponed September 6 legislative election would have been the first since the introduction of the security law.
Those 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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