One woman was arrested on charges of assault and spreading pro-independence slogans, the Hong Kong police department said on its Facebook page. Such slogans are illegal under the newly enacted National Security Act.
Initial reports put the number of arrests at around 90, but the South China Morning Post reported that the number might be as high as at least 289 people, most on the charge of “illegal assembly.”
Police fired pepper balls at protesters and raised a purple flag warning demonstrators that they would be arrested for chanting slogans that violated the new security law.
Plainclothes officers also pepper-sprayed and wrestled with protesters. Almost two dozen people were fined for violating coronavirus social-distancing rules.
Protests have occurred every weekend since June 2019 after a proposed extradition law was announced, with protesters quickly adding demands for greater democracy and criticism of Beijing’s efforts to tighten control over Hong Kong.
Elections would have taken place Sunday, but Chief Executive Carrie Lam on July 31 postponed them for one year. Lam blamed a surge in coronavirus cases for the need to delay the election, but critics have claimed her government is worried that the opposition would gain seats if voting took place as planned.
“I want my right to vote!” activist Leung Kwok-hung, popularly known as Long Hair, was quoted as saying. She was reportedly arrested at the protests.
Police sources earlier told the SCMP that 2,000 riot officers would be deployed across the West Kowloon area, with water cannons and armored vehicles on standby.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.