HONG KONG, May 27, 2020, RTHK. Police said they had arrested almost 300 people on suspicion of illegal assembly by around 5pm on Wednesday, after moving to stamp out protests against Hong Kong’s incoming national anthem and national security laws, RTHK reported.
Officers confronted protesters and stopped suspected demonstrators in various parts of the city from lunchtime onwards.
Pepper balls were fired at a crowd of protesters in Central, schoolgirls were searched in Mong Kok, and a large number of people were held by officers in Causeway Bay before being taken away in coaches.
Police said around 180 arrests were made in Central and Causeway Bay, 60 in Mong Kok and 50 in Admiralty.
The protests came ahead of the afternoon debate among lawmakers to criminalise insults to the national anthem with up to three years in jail.
Police had earlier surrounded Legco with water-filled barriers and fanned out across the city to conduct widespread stop-and-search operations in a bid to deter mass gatherings.
“It’s like a de facto curfew now,” said disqualified lawmaker and pro-democracy activist Nathan Law.
“I think the government has to understand why people are really angry,” he added.
In a statement on Facebook, police said protesters had blocked roads and disrupted traffic.
The force said officers always show restraint and they respect people’s right to express their opinions, but this must be done in a legal manner.
Earlier in the day, police said they had found Molotov cocktails as well as other “illegal” items such as gas masks, hammers and pliers during stop-and-search operations.
(Additional reporting by AFP)