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Hong Kong police make first arrest under new security law

Hong Kong police have made their first arrest under a new national security law, arresting a protester for carrying a flag calling for Hong Kong independence at a protest on Wednesday.

The man was intercepted by police in the city’s Causeway Bay shopping district and was arrested after officers had issued multiple warnings to the crowd warning that they might be in violation of the national security law, which took effect Tuesday at 23.00 local time.

The contentious new law approved by China allows authorities to crack down on subversive and secessionist activity in Hong Kong, sparking fears that it would be used to curb opposition voices in the semi-autonomous territory. It also covers terrorist activities, as well as foreign intervention in the city’s affairs. It follows months of anti-government protests that at times descended into violence last year.

The European Union’s leadership said on Tuesday that it “deplored ” the adoption of the law and that it was “very seriously concerned” about it.

The law has met with strong opposition within Hong Kong and condemnation from former colonial ruler Britain, the US, the European Union and others.

Human rights groups have warned the law could target opposition politicians seen as insufficiently loyal to Beijing for arrest or disqualification from running in September elections for the Legislative Council.

Amnesty International described the legislation as “the greatest threat to human rights in the city’s recent history”.

China decided to use the National People’s Congress to enact the legislation after opposition within Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and within society as a whole made it impossible to pass at the local level.

The law is seen as the most significant erosion to date of Hong Kong’s British-style rule of law and high degree of autonomy that China promised Hong Kong would enjoy at least through 2047 under the “one country, two systems” framework.

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