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The day many have feared, has arrived. More than 370 have been arrested in Hong Kong protesting the restrictive anti-protest laws.
More than 370 people have been arrested on the streets of Hong Kong, protesting the much-maligned, and now-official, national security law imposed by China. Under the laws, anti-government slogans come with severe penalties, while damage of government property could be legally viewed as an act of terrorism.
Enacted on the 23rd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong back to China, thousands took to the streets and were soon pinned to the ground, with police firing teargas, pepper spray and water cannons at them.
The Hong Kong police said, via an ornate purple flag: “You are displaying flags or banners/chanting slogans/or conducting yourselves with an intent such as secession or subversion, which may constitute offences under the Hong Kong national security law.”
One of the arrested demonstrators was a 15-year-old girl, who was waving a flag that supported Hong Kong’s independence.
“I am prepared for 10 years in jail,” said one protester to The Guardian. “We need to keep our voices heard. This is what you have to do for freedoms and democracy.”
The tableau of massed complaint and police violence has become bitterly familiar to those at home and abroad, and one could safely assume that the police, armed with increased powers, will again clash with a public made angrier with the addition of reduced rights to protest. The repeated clashes of 2019 demonstrated how easily the definition of disperment can be warped.
In November of last year, a video shared on Reddit clearly showed one protester shot in the abdomen by Hong Kong police after demonstrations continued in the city. At the time, the @hkpoliceforce took to Twitter, confirming that their officers had drawn their guns, and one protestor had been shot.
During Police operations, one Police officer has discharged his service revolver, one male was shot. In the Shatin and Tung Chung operations, police officers have drawn their service arms from their holsters.
— Hong Kong Police Force (@hkpoliceforce) November 11, 2019
For those who have witnessed the video, it depicts a small scuffle, with the victim approaching a solitary officer in order to break a headlock enabled by the office. After the shot (and two more that allegedly followed), the protester was then seen lying in a pool of blood with his eyes wide open.
Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong said that the crackdown had begun early in the day and showed footage of clashes between police and protesters.
“Barely 9 o’clock in the morning, and across the other side of town, in Kwai Fong, a traffic cop gone berserk on a motorcycle is running protesters over,” Wong wrote.
Barely 9 o’clock in the morning, and across the other side of town, in Kwai Fong, a traffic cop gone berserk on a motorcycle is running protesters over. Several injuries reported. Watch till the very end. It’s very disturbing. pic.twitter.com/KlAeEIGGLA
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 😷 (@joshuawongcf) November 11, 2019
On Wednesday, Hong Kong’s chief executive (and champion of the laws) Carrie Lam said at a press conference that the purpose of the legislation “was not just to punish but also to deter”, and that some human rights were “not absolute”.