HONG KONG — Hong Kong police made the first arrests Wednesday under a new national security law imposed by China’s central government, as thousands of people defied tear gas and pepper pellets to protest against the contentious move on the anniversary of the former British colony’s handover to Chinese rule.
Police said 10 people were arrested under the law, including a man with a Hong Kong independence flag and a woman holding a sign displaying the British flag and calling for Hong Kong’s independence — all violations of the law that took effect Tuesday night. Others were detained for possessing items advocating independence.
Hong Kong police said on Facebook that they arrested some 370 people on various charges, including unlawful assembly, possession of weapons and violating the new law, which was imposed in a move seen as Beijing’s boldest step yet to erase the legal firewall between the semiautonomous territory and the mainland’s authoritarian Communist Party system.
The law, imposed following anti-government protests in Hong Kong last year, makes secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities illegal, as well as foreign intervention in the city’s internal affairs. Any person taking part in activities such as shouting slogans or holding up banners and flags calling for the city’s independence is violating the law, regardless of whether violence is used.