They had been warned that merely chanting a slogan could risk prosecution under Hong Kong’s brutal new security law. But still the protesters came, first in their hundreds, then in thousands. “One Hong Kong, One Nation!” they shouted in unison outside the high end malls of the city’s Causeway Bay, waving now-outlawed Hong Kong independence flags. As riot police gathered, they raised their hands with their palms held high – a common symbol of year long pro-democracy protests that Beijing now intends to crush. One group tore down a banner announcing the new law and stomped it into the ground. Police officers in riot gear and armed with rubber bullets were stationed on the corners of the city’s major streets, with instructions to immediately disperse any demonstrators, who had been forbidden from attending the usual pro-democracy march on the anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain to China. The force moved swiftly to break-up gatherings, targeting protesters and journalists with a water cannon firing bursts of liquid laced with a stinging pepper solution. Shortly before 2pm, a man wearing a “Free Hong Kong” shirt became the first person to be arrested under the sweeping law enacted late on Tuesday.
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