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Police arrest 53 as Hong Kong protesters back on the streets

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Protests: Student leader Anthea Suen leaves the Eastern District Court in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP

Protests: Student leader Anthea Suen leaves the Eastern District Court in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP

AFP via Getty Images

Protests: Student leader Anthea Suen leaves the Eastern District Court in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP

Hong Kong police arrested 53 people during protests on Tuesday evening that saw hundreds of activists take to the streets, at times blocking roads in the heart of the global financial hub, before police fired pepper spray to disperse crowds.

The protests, called to mark a year of sometimes violent pro-democracy rallies in the former British colony, also came amid heightened tensions due to a proposed national security bill backed by the central government in Beijing.

Police said yesterday that 36 males and 17 females were arrested for offences including unlawful assembly and participating in unauthorised assembly.

Protesters had defied a ban on gatherings of more than eight people introduced by the Hong Kong government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

More protests are planned in the coming days, with pro-democracy supporters fearing the proposed national security legislation will dramatically stifle freedoms in the city.

While details of the security law or how it will operate have yet to be revealed, authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have said there is no cause for concern and the legislation will target a minority of "troublemakers".

The standing committee of the National People's Congress, the top decision-making body of the Chinese parliament, will meet in Beijing later this month to deliberate on various draft legislation, although it is not known if laws regarding Hong Kong are on the agenda for the June 18-20 meeting.

Hong Kong security secretary John Lee told the 'South China Morning Post' in an interview published yesterday that local police were setting up a dedicated unit to enforce the law and it would have intelligence-gathering, investigation and training capabilities.

Irish Independent