Hong Kong police fired volleys of tear gas in a popular shopping district as hundreds of people dressed in black protested against China’s proposed new security law that many fear will spell the end of the city’s freedoms.
Beijing’s proposed legislation would ban secessionist activity, as well as foreign interference in the semi-autonomous territory.
It comes after repeated warnings from China that it will no longer tolerate dissent in Hong Kong, which saw months of massive and at times violent anti-government protests last year.
Pro-democracy supporters in Hong Kong have criticised the national security law and say it goes against the “one country, two systems” framework.
The new law is expected to be passed on May 28. It would allow the Hong Kong government to set up mainland agencies in the city. Some fear this would allow Chinese agents to arrest people for carrying out pro-democracy activities.
Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam defended the proposed law by saying it is necessary to protect national security and punish “violent political elements”.
Several Western governments have voiced concerns over the new controversial legislation.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged China to reconsider the “disastrous proposal”, saying it would “be a death knell for the high degree of autonomy Beijing promised for Hong Kong”.