(Update 1: Adds byline, details throughout, including news of arrests, alters lede, headline)
By Shirley Lau
Hong Kong, Jul 1 (efe-epa).- At least two protesters advocating Hong Kong independence were arrested under the controversial national security law Wednesday afternoon when a protest rally banned by police drew a defiant crowd chanting provocative slogans.
It was the first protest held in Hong Kong since the national security law, imposed by Beijing to punish acts including secession, took effect at 23.00 local time (GMT 16.00) on Tuesday.
Details of the law only came to light when it took effect, an hour before the ex-British colony marked the 23rd anniversary of its handover to China.
Under the law, crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces carry a maximum sentence of life in prison and trials will be held behind closed doors.
But thousands of people were undaunted, turning up at the rally that began in the early afternoon in the shopping area of Causeway Bay.
At times, slogans such as “Hong Kong independence, the only way out”, “One nation, one Hong Kong” and “Hongkongers, build our nation” were chanted.
The protest was an annual rally traditionally held by the Civil Human Rights Front from the day of the handover on 1 July 1997.
This year, police banned it for the first time citing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic and violence in previous demonstrations which were part of the protracted anti-government protest movement that erupted last June.