Hong Kong, Jul 2 (efe-epa).- At least 370 people were arrested in Hong Kong on Wednesday, the 23rd anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese sovereignty, as thousands of people gathered to protest against the new security law that Beijing has enacted for semi-autonomous territory, local police announced.
In a statement issued late Wednesday, the Hong Kong police said that protesters “blocked roads and set fires at multiple locations in Causeway Bay and Wan Chai” and added that “one (protester) even stabbed a Police officer with a sharp object when the officer was executing of duty.”
According to the police, the situation returned to normal at around 10 pm although officials continue to patrol the affected areas.
Of the 370 arrests, six men and four women were arrested for allegedly violating the new law, which establishes sentences of up to life imprisonment for “acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security.”
Other arrests were made for unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct in a public place and possession of offensive weapon, the police said.
Seven police officials were injured in attacks by some demonstrators during the anti-riot operations, according to the police, which “denounced” the attacks and vowed to investigate the incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice.
The authorities had, for the first time in 17 years, banned the traditional anti-government demonstration held every July 1, the day commemorating Hong Kong’s transfer from British to Chinese hands in 1997.
However, despite the large police presence – some 4,000 officials were deployed – and the main streets being cordoned off, many demonstrators ignored the ban and came out on the streets to protest, although the number of participants was much lower than that recorded in July 1 marches in the past.
The deputy director of the Beijing Office for Hong Kong, Zhang Xiaoming, said on Wednesday that “various parties including people with different political views and different positions will continue to exist for a long time in Hong Kong” and added that the law did not treat the entire pro-democracy camp “as an enemy” but targets only a few people.
The Chinese official also warned that there were certain lines that could not be breached in the “one country, two systems” principle and urged the opposition to “reflect” and make certain “adjustments” in this regard, according to China’s state-run media.
However, lawyers and activists in the semi-autonomous city believe that the new law could mean an end to the freedoms that people in Hong Kong, unlike those on mainland China, enjoy. Under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which articulated Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese hands in 1997 and which Beijing no longer considers to be in force, the city’s freedoms and autonomy had to be safeguarded until at least 2047.
Moreover, any person convicted under the law, which has been in effect since July 1, will not be allowed to stand as a candidate in the elections for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. The next elections to elect the members of this body are scheduled in September.