Thousands of protesters returned to Hong Kong streets on Wednesday, openly defying a ban on the annual July 1 rally to oppose Beijing’s newly imposed national security law
At least 10 people – six men and four women – became the first to be arrested by police exercising their new powers under the contentious legislation, which took effect at 11pm on Tuesday.
Several of them were carrying materials calling for “Hong Kong independence”, including a 15-year-old girl waving a flag.
They were among about 370 people detained mainly for participating in illegal assemblies, disorderly conduct and possession of offensive weapons.
While protesters blocked roads and radicals among them set fires, vandalised shops and attacked police, the chaos was not on the scale of last year’s violent protests and the majority mostly played cat and mouse with officers across Causeway Bay and Wan Chai.
Police said at least four officers were injured after coming under attack by radicals. One of them was assaulted by a mob when he became separated from his colleagues while chasing a suspect near Victoria Park.
“An officer was stabbed in the arm by rioters holding sharp objects when he was taking arrest action,” police said in a Twitter post.
“While the bystanders offered no helping hand, suspects fled. The police express the strongest condemnation against such a violent act.”
Three other officers were injured in Wan Chai when a protester drove his motorcycle into them, knocking them down. The 23-year-old, who had a flag with the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong” mounted on his motorcycle, was arrested under the national security law.
Riot police deployed a water cannon, and used tear gas, pepper spray and pepper balls to disperse unruly crowds.
The protests lasted throughout the day and continued into the night. Riot police were still dispersing protesters at the Times Square shopping mall in Causeway Bay at 8pm, at one point firing pepper balls which also hit passers-by.
Throughout the day, protest slogans directly challenging the new law, such as “Hong Kong independence, the only way out” and “One Hong Kong, one nation”, echoed through the canyons of high-rise blocks in the shopping district.
Other familiar slogans from last year’s anti-government campaign – “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” and “No rioters, only tyranny” – could also be heard on the streets.
Traffic on the usually busy Hennessy Road ground to a halt as protesters charged onto the carriageways, only to retreat and strike at the next location every time police arrived.
At one point, riot police were seen throwing handheld tear gas canisters to disperse protesters on Percival Street, where radicals had dug up bricks. Pepper balls were also fired at a crowd outside Times Squares after a bottle was thrown at officers.
News of the first arrest under the new law came shortly after 1.30pm – about 14½ hours after the legislation took effect.