Dozens of pro-democracy protestors were arrested in Hong Kong on Tuesday after people took to the streets to mark the first anniversary of the anti-government movement.
The demonstrators occupied roads and blocked traffic, carrying banners and yelling slogans, such as: “Hong Kong independence, the only way” and “Rejuvenate Hong Kong, revolution of our era”.
Public gatherings have been banned since March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Police used pepper spray to disperse protesters. 53 people had been arrested for participating in an illegal assembly, police said, adding that it had used “minimum necessary force” to disperse the crowd.
The demonstrations in Hong Kong began last year when people took to the streets to reject a bill that would have facilitated extradition to China. The protests, often followed by brutal crackdowns by security forces, evolved into a wider movement calling for greater freedoms in what is the most concerted challenge to Beijing’s rule since the former British colony’s 1997 handover. Beijing has denied the arrests were politically motivated and has blamed the West for provoking unrest.
The protests escalated last month, when China’s parliament decided to impose national security laws on Hong Kong, and made it a criminal offence to disrespect the Chinese national anthem.
City leader Carrie Lam said that “Hong Kong cannot afford such chaos”, adding that residents needed to prove Hong Kong people “are reasonable and sensible citizens of the People’s Republic of China” if they want their freedoms and autonomy to continue.