Hong Kong on edge before National Anthem Bill: Live updates

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Riot police surrounded Hong Kong’s legislature on Wednesday morning as protesters threatened to take to the streets before the second reading of the controversial National Anthem Bill.

The bill would make it a criminal offence to “disrespect” the national anthem of the People’s Republic of China. It would also require that the anthem be taught in schools and sung by organisations.

The semi-autonomous Chinese territory is additionally jittery over China’s plans to impose “national security” legislation on Thursday.

The Legislative Council, known as Legco, is due to start its session at 11 am (03:00 GMT). Police have also taken to walkways around the area and are checking passers-by.

Here are the newest updates:

05:13 GMT – Expert says Hong Kong crackdown inevitable
Since the anti-government protests in Hong Kong last year, it had been just a matter of your time before Bejing responds and performs a crackdown against the opposition and civilians, an expert from Lowy Institute said.

Ben Bland, director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Australia-based think factory, said the ongoing coronavirus pandemic may be a “fortuitous timing” for China to impose the national security law, when the eye of other countries also are focused on containing the deadly disease, and when Hong Kong residents also are constrained in completing protests.

“The proposed national security legislation may be a huge blow to Hong Kong’s way of life. it’s a blow to the pro-democracy movement, and even to the businessmen ,” he told Al Jazeera.

04:48 GMT – Billionaire Li Ka Shing backs national security bill
Hong Kong’s billionaire Li Ka-Shing has expressed his support for the controversial national security law, which China is predicted to approve on Thursday.

The pro-Beijing publications Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po quoted Li as saying that the law will help within the long-term stability and prosperity of the town, whilst he also called on the Hong Kong government to strengthen people’s confidence on the One Country, Two Systems policy.

04:18 GMT – 16 people arrested in Hong Kong
Hong Kong police said during a statement on Wednesday that a minimum of 16 people has thus far been arrested today for completing “illegal” activities across the town – a Special Administrative Region of China.

Those who were arrested were aged between 14 to 40, consistent with the statement posted on social media.

03:40 GMT – Heavy security reported outside Legco
Hong Kong police are deployed around Hong Kong government’s headquarters and legislature on Wednesday, as legislators hold their latest session to debate a proposed law imposing criminal punishment against those that “disrespect” China’s anthem and flag.

Police reportedly blocked a footbridge resulting in the Central Government Complex, leaving just one footbridge for public access.

02:45 GMT – Legco session thanks to starting at 11 am (03G) with questions
The Legco session is thanks to getting underway shortly and can start with various administration officials responding to legislators’ questions.

Given the present tensions in Hong Kong , a few of the six questions slated for oral reply stand out. Question two is for the Secretary for Security and relates to “preventing the emergency of homegrown terrorism”. Question six relates to Article 23 of the essential Law, which covers national security.

02:00 GMT – Five youngsters arrested with petrol bombs, helmets, gas masks
AFP is reporting that the police have arrested five-under-18s in three different areas around the city. One group had Molotov cocktails, another a screwdriver, and therefore the other helmets and gas masks. The youngest is simply 14.

00:30 GMT – Trump warns the US to possess “strong response” to China security legislation
US President Donald Trump says the US will announce its response to China’s decision to impose national security legislation on Hong Kong by the top of the week.

When asked whether the response would come with sanctions, Trump responded: “No, it’s something you are going to be hearing about … before the top of the week, very powerfully, I think.”

You can read more on Trump’s comments and US reaction to China’s recent moves in Hong Kong here.

00:00 GMT – many riot police surround Legco
Hundreds of riot police are deployed around the Legco building, which has been sealed behind a wall of blue and white water-filled plastic barriers, consistent with Reuters.

Source: aljazeera

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