Hong Kong police arrested at least 60 people on suspicion of unauthorized assembly on China’s National Day holiday on Thursday after crowds gathered on the streets chanting pro-democracy slogans.
Those arrested included two district councilors, police said in a statement posted on Facebook. They said the people were arrested after they ignored repeated warnings asking them to disperse.
Online calls urged people to join protests, and crowds turned up at a popular shopping district, some people chanting “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time,” a popular pro-democracy slogan that has been banned by the Hong Kong government.
Large gatherings have been banned due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A heavy police presence outnumbered the protesters at the scene.
National Day, which celebrates the founding of the People’s Republic of China, has become a day of protest in Hong Kong by those who oppose Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian rule over the semi-autonomous city.
In the afternoon, police cordoned off some areas in the district and searched people on the streets.
On several occasions, they unfurled warning banners that urged protesters to disperse, saying they were participating in an illegal assembly.
Protests against the Hong Kong and mainland Chinese governments swelled last year, and Beijing clamped down on expressions of anti-government sentiment in the city with a strict national security law that took effect June 30.
The law outlaws subversive and secessionist behavior, including displaying anti-government flags or criticizing the Chinese national anthem.
The U.S. and Britain accuse China of infringing on the city’s freedoms, and the U.S. has imposed sanctions on government officials in Hong Kong and China over the law.
At a National Day reception, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said “stability has been restored to society while national security has been safeguarded” under the new law.
Lam also accused some foreign governments of holding “double standards” and leveling unjustified accusations against the authorities who implement the new law.
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