This article has been updated with the latest information.
Hundreds of Hongkongers staged a march in the business district of Central in Hong Kong on June 9 evening to commemorate the beginning of a mass protest movement against Beijing’s encroachment.
A year ago, roughly a million Hongkongers participated in a march against a since-scrapped extradition bill that would have allowed Beijing to transfer individuals for trial in Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-controlled courts. The event set off an ongoing anti-CCP, pro-democracy protest movement.
Most recently, protesters expressed fears that Beijing’s decision to enact a national security law in Hong Kong will lead to a crackdown on dissent.
Protesters marched from Chater Garden in Central at around 7 p.m. local time and headed west toward the Sheung Wan neighborhood, despite a government ban on gatherings of more than eight people, ostensibly to prevent the spread of the CCP virus. They flashed their cellphone lights while chanting slogans such as “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times” and “Fight Till the Last Breath.”
Many riot police officers were seen in the area since around 5:30 p.m. local time.
Earlier in the afternoon, police were already determined to prevent people from gathering. At around 1:30 p.m. local time, it issued a statement on its Facebook page, telling citizens not to participate in “unauthorized assemblies” on Hong Kong Island tonight, or they could be charged and sentenced for a maximum of five years.
At around 7:30 p.m. local time, police again took to Facebook, announcing that protesters have illegally occupied several roads in Central, including Queen’s Road and Ice House Street.
Local media reported that at one point, police pointed guns and canisters of pepper spray at journalists and protesters, telling them to get off the roads.
At around 8:15 p.m. local time, local media Stand News reported that police fired pepper spray and pepper balls at crowds on Des Voeux Road.
According to local broadcaster RTHK, at least 25 people were arrested by the end of Tuesday evening.
China director of Human Rights Watch Sophie Richardson urged the Hong Kong government to respect citizens’ freedoms and for the Chinese regime to scrap the national security law proposal. “For the past year Hong Kong people have made clear their peaceful demands for freedom and autonomy,” said Sophie Richardson, in a statement on the June 9 anniversary.
Richardson added: “But the authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong choose to respond with ever-greater repression and violence.”
Reuters and the Hong Kong edition of The Epoch Times contributed to this report.