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News / World Today

Hong Kong police fire pepper pellets at anthem protesters

Police in Hong Kong have fired pepper pellets at protesters as MPs gather to debate a bill that would criminalise insulting China's national anthem.

Small protests are taking place in several locations, and dozens of people have been arrested.

The second reading of the bill comes amid high anti-mainland sentiment.

Days ago, China also proposed implementing a controversial national security law, which triggered a burst of unrest.

Critics say that bill is a direct attempt to curtail the city's unique freedoms.

However, the city's leader Carrie Lam has denied that the national security law - which would ban treason, secession, sedition and subversion - would curtail the rights of Hong Kongers.

If the anthem bill becomes law, anyone who misuses or insults China's national anthem, the March of the Volunteers, would face a fine of up to HK$50,000 (£5,237; $6,449) and up to three years in prison.

If it passes the second reading in the Legislative Council (Legco) on Wednesday, it could go to a third reading and a vote early next month.

Riot police surrounded the Legco building in Central, setting up a street cordon, but hundreds of protesters still gathered around lunchtime, blocking streets and chanting slogans.

Early in the afternoon, there were brief clashes as protesters ran through the streets. Police fired pellets containing irritants towards them.

Protesters also disrupted traffic and public transport in other locations. Local media said about 80 people had been arrested, some for carrying offensive weapons.

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