Hong Kong police fired pepper balls in the central business district and arrested almost 360 people after protesters gathered in opposition to the national anthem and national security law.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

Demonstrators chanted pro-democracy slogans in Causeway Bay and Central at lunchtime.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

They also chanted “Hong Kong independence, the only way out” and “one nation, one Hong Kong.”

Photo: May James/HKFP.

At least 50 young people were held by police outside Hysan Place mall in Causeway Bay.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

They were held for over an hour before being marched onto a police bus.

Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Activists were also rounded up and kettled in Central, where police shot pepper ball rounds near D’Aguilar Street.

Dozens of young people were also detained and held outside Langham Place mall in Mong Kok – some of them in school uniform.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

Police raised flags on Hong Kong Island warning that protesters were in breach of the law and they may use force and tear gas to disperse them.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

Other protesters gathered in malls to chant slogans, whilst one group briefly occupied Nathan Road, Kowloon’s main thoroughfare.

HKFP_Live: Protesters have started an impromptu march in Mong Kok, briefly occupying Nathan Road. https://bit.ly/3bZLzFe

Posted by Hong Kong Free Press HKFP on Wednesday, 27 May 2020
Photo: Kero/United Social Press.

“At around 1 PM, protestors occupied the carriageways in the vicinity of Pedder Street, Central, causing serious obstruction to traffic,” police said in a Facebook post.

HKFP_Live: Pepper balls have been fired in Central as crowds gathered to protest.

Posted by Hong Kong Free Press HKFP on Tuesday, 26 May 2020

“Police officers have repeatedly warned protestors to leave immediately. Officers are taking resolute action to enforce the law and using the minimum necessary force. Protestors are warned to stop road blockage, proceed to safe locations and leave as soon as possible.”

Photo: May James/HKFP.

Earlier, police set up a heavy security presence around the government headquarters and legislature in Admiralty in anticipation of the demonstrations.

HKFP_Live: Protesters have gathered in Causeway Bay amid a heavy police presence near the legislature.

Posted by Hong Kong Free Press HKFP on Tuesday, 26 May 2020

“It’s like a de facto curfew now,” pro-democracy activist Nathan Law said on Twitter. “I think the government has to understand why people are really angry.”

Photo: May James/HKFP.

Amnesty International also condemned the police crackdown: “Today’s excessive and indiscriminate use of force by the police to disperse protesters once again exposes the authorities’ utter disregard for human rights on the streets of Hong Kong. Mass arrests in entirely peaceful assemblies show that the Hong Kong government is targeting anyone exercising their right to freedom of expression,” said Deputy Director for East and South East Asia Joshua Rosenzweig.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

The force also said that at least 16 people aged between 16 and 40 had been arrested as of 11.30 am.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

They were arrested on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon, possession of instruments fit for unlawful purposes and dangerous driving.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

There had been online calls for a general strike and encirclement of the legislature, to halt the passing of the proposed law which would criminalise insulting the national anthem March of the Volunteers, punishable by a fine of up to HK$50,000 and three years behind bars.

Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki patrols Mong Kok during protest

HKFP_Live: Kwok Ka Ki 郭家麒, a legislator from the pro-democracy Civic Party, patrols a Mong Kok protest saying he wants to monitor the police.

Posted by Hong Kong Free Press HKFP on Wednesday, 27 May 2020
Photo: May James/HKFP.

There has also been opposition to Beijing’s decision to directly insert national security laws into the annex of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, bypassing the local legislature.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

Critics have said the legislation – prohibiting secession, sedition and subversion – would signal the death of the city’s cherished freedoms.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Quartz, Global Post and others.