HONG KONG: Hundreds of Hong Kongers marched silently through the city’s streets on Sunday in protest against the looming national security legislation to be implemented by the mainland Chinese government.
Riot police armed with shields were present as the crowd moved from Jordan to Mong Kok in the Kowloon district, as part of a “silent protest”, in which they marched with the usual chanting or slogan shouting mainly absent.
Scuffles broke out in Mong Kok during the event, prompting police to use pepper spray to subdue parts of the crowd, according to a Reuters witness.
The proposed national security laws were reviewed by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on Sunday, according to a report by state media Xinhua.
The laws are expected to be passed before the end of June but a draft has yet to be made public.
“I am here to oppose the national security laws,” said Esther, 25, who was on the streets of Jordan on Sunday.
“It’s not the last battle, there is a long-term resistance (to the laws),” she said, declining to give her surname.
The event came a day after Hong Kong police refused permission for an annual march usually held on July 1 to mark the handover of the city from Britain to Chinese authorities 23 years ago.
Police said in a statement to the organiser that a march would be in violation of Hong Kong’s current ban of gatherings of more than 50 people that was put in place as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
A survey conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute for Reuters showed the national security legislation is opposed by a majority of people in the financial centre.
The survey also showed support for protests dropping to 51% from 58% in June compared to a previous poll conducted for Reuters in March. Opposition to them rose to 34% from 28%.