Mass protest in Hong Kong against new security law

Up to 500,000 people marched in Hong Kong yesterday on the anniversary of its handover to China in protest at a new anti-subversion law that many fear will curb freedoms of speech, press and assembly.

"This will push Hong Kong toward an era of tyranny," W C Mak, a 74-year-old retired nurse, said. Chow Shek-fai, one of the march's organisers, said more than 500,000 people had turned out. Police said at least 350,000 people took part.

The rally overshadowed ceremonies marking the sixth anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China on 1 July 1997. Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, and Tung Chee-hwa, the territory's chief executive, attended the ceremonies. Activists outside government headquarters scuffled with police and burnt the flag of the Chinese Communist Party, demanding an end to its monopoly on power.

The national security law, expected to be passed this week, will ban subversion, treason, sedition and other crimes against the state, giving police more powers and imposing life sentences for some offences. Mr Wen said Hong Kong would keep its "unique position and irreplaceable role" within China and the global economy, and the new law would "absolutely not affect the different rights and freedoms that Hong Kong people enjoy".

One of the protesters, Joanne Chow, said: "It's a tragedy if we have to live in a society where we dare not speak our minds and fear persecution."

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