HONG KONG (AP) — Dozens of people joined a protest in a mall in Hong Kong on Friday following a vote by China’s ceremonial parliament to approve legislation that could severely restrict opposition political activity and civic activity in the Asian financial center.
The protesters chanted slogans in the main atrium of the mall in the high-end Central district, some draping banners over the balconies with slogans such as “Independence for Hong Kong.”
Police waited in vans parked prominently outside the mall but did not attempt to break up the gathering. Hundreds of people have been arrested during recent demonstrations that seek to revive the momentum of protests that shut down large parts of the city during the second half of last year.
China’s National People’s Congress on Thursday voted to approve the bill that will now be sent to its standing committee for final approval. Details of the final version of the law aren’t known, but China says it will prohibit separatist activities and actions that might threaten the Communist Party’s monopoly on political power in mainland China.
Beijing and its supporters in Hong Kong are defending the legislative move against criticism from foreign countries, including the U.S., which has threatened to revoke special trade privileges granted to the former British colony when it was handed over to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” framework in which it was guaranteed its own political, legal, social and legal institutions for 50 years.