Riot police try to clear away people gathered in the Central district of downtown Hong Kong. AFP
Riot police were deployed across Hong Kong on Thursday after mass protests a day earlier, as lawmakers debated a bill that would criminalise disrespect of China's national anthem and Washington piled on pressure to preserve the city's freedoms.
Heated debate over the bill — the latest spark of anti-government unrest in the semi-autonomous city — saw lawmakers removed in chaotic scenes from the Legislative Council which was then adjourned.
Police fired pepper pellets and made 360 arrests on Wednesday as thousands took to the streets in anger over the anthem bill and national security legislation proposed by China that has raised international alarm over freedoms in the city.
On Thursday, dozens gathered in a shopping mall, chanting "good kids don't become cops," and "reclaim Hong Kong."
China's National People's Congress, its parliament, is due to approve the decision to go forward with a law tackling secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference on Thursday. It is expected to be enacted before September.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Hong Kong no longer qualified for special treatment under US law, potentially dealing a crushing blow to its status as a major financial hub.
The proposed security law was "only the latest in a series of actions" undermining Hong Kong freedoms, he told Congress.
"No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground," he said.
The new security law could see Chinese intelligence agencies set up bases in the city that was given a high degree of autonomy under the "one country, two systems" terms of its 1997 handover to China by former colonial power Britain.
At the Legislative Council, opposition lawmaker Ted Hui ran into the hall carrying a plastic bottle with what he said was rotten plants, which he dropped onto the floor, causing a bad smell that forced everyone to leave.
Firemen were called to inspect it.
"The rotten thing is 'one country two systems', the rotten thing is rule of law," Hui said.
Chinese authorities and the Beijing-backed government in Hong Kong say there is no threat to the city's high degree of autonomy and the new security law would be tightly focused.
The United States and China clashed over Hong Kong at the United Nations on Wednesday after Beijing opposed a request by Washington for the Security Council to meet over the national security legislation.
The US mission said it was "a matter of urgent global concern that implicates international peace and security". China said the legislation was an internal matter.
The bill, to be introduced by Republican Senator Pat Toomey and Democrat Chris Van Hollen, would also impose secondary sanctions on banks that do business with entities found to violate the law guaranteeing Hong Kong's autonomy.
China's parliament is expected to approve a proposed security law that would reduce Hong Kong's separate legal status on Thursday, calling into question the special economic status the territory currently enjoys under US law.
President Donald Trump said on Friday that the United States would ban some Chinese graduate students and start reversing Hong Kong's special status in customs and other areas, as Beijing moves ahead with a plan to impose a controversial security law.
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, praised the efforts of the UAE’s frontline workers after zero coronavirus deaths were reported in the last 24 hours.
The president’s comments were made as the US continues to flounder in its fight against Covid-19. A total of 67,417 new cases were reported on Tuesday, the country's highest single-day jump in cases since the pandemic began.
An Indian school principal in Ajman became the latest winner of $1 million in the Dubai Duty Free Millennium Millionaire and Finest Surprise draw held on Wednesday in Terminal 2 of Dubai International Airport.