Marchers make their way to the government headquarters last year to support the occupiers. Photo: Asia Times

Hong Kong protesters plan to defy a ban and stage the annual pro-democracy march at Victoria Park on Wednesday, a day after an expected key vote on Beijing’s national security legislation.

Over the past few days, Hong Kong social media users have been calling for support for the rally. Some posters say they they will gather at Victoria Park at 2pm and march to Admiralty at 3pm.

On Saturday, Hong Kong Police officially rejected the Civil Human Rights Front’s application to hold the march due to “public health” reasons.

It is the first time in 18 years that pro-democracy protesters have been barred from marching on July 1.

In Beijing, the National People’s Congress (NPC) standing committee will vote on the national security law for Hong Kong on Tuesday as it closes its three-day meeting, Xinhua News Agency reported on Monday.

The draft law has been discussed and the resolution has been handed to the committee for further deliberation, it said.

Li Zhanshu, chairman of the NPC standing committee, presided over Sunday’s meeting of the Council of Chairpersons, which heard the report on suggested revisions to the draft law on safeguarding national security in Hong Kong.

It is expected that the law will be passed on Tuesday and become effective from Wednesday, Hong Kong’s 23rd anniversary of the 1997 handover from Britain to China.

On July 1 last year, the Civil Human Rights Front organized a march from Causeway Bay to Admiralty. Organizers said 550,000 people took part. Police said there were 190,000 at its peak.

Thousands of protesters then occupied key roads in Admiralty and surrounded the Legislative Council building. In the evening, hundreds of protesters broke into the building and occupied the chamber for several hours before they were dispersed by riot police.

On Wednesday, police plan to deploy between 3,000 and 4,000 officers to handle potential conflicts, according to a RTHK report, which cited an unnamed source.

Various roads on Hong Kong Island have been closed from just after midnight on Sunday night, ahead of the July 1 flag-raising ceremony in Bauhinia Square. An exit of the Central-Wan Chai Bypass was among the routes closed to traffic, with taxi stands moved and changes made to a small number of bus services.

Transport officials warned that they expected significant traffic congestion in the Wan Chai North area.

Elmer Yuen, a former businessman and a political activist, who is persuading United States congressmen to impose sanctions on Chinese Communist Party members, said in his YouTube channel that it was very important for Hong Kong people to rally on the streets on July 1 because the US politicians want to see Hong Kong people’s reaction to the national security legislation. Yuen said the police will have no reason to arrest people who appear in shopping areas in black.

On Sunday afternoon, hundreds of people took part in a “silent protest” after netizens called for a march from Jordan to Mong Kok along Nathan Road to oppose the national security law.

Police called the march an illegal assembly and set up temporary cordons in parts of Nathan Road. They searched a number of people, including a 15-year-old reporter working for an online outlet.

At one point, officers used pepper spray against protesters outside the popular mall, CTMA Centre, in Mong Kok, forcing shops to pull down shutters. Witnesses said police took action after an officer fell to the ground while trying to disperse the crowd. A total of 53 people, including 41 males and 12 females, were taken into custody on suspicion of unlawful assembly.

A man who was on the streets shopping with his wife and son was arrested. A picture, uploaded on a Facebook page named Studio Incendo, showed that his son was scared by the police’s operation.

A boy clings to his mother after his father was taken away by police while the family was shopping. Photo: Studio Incendo

On Monday, Executive Councillor Ronny Tong said there’s a high possibility that those convicted of secession and subversion will face a maximum sentence of life in prison, in line with international practice. He said a minimum sentence for these cases could be set at 10 years.

Alan Leong, a Civic Party lawmaker, criticised Beijing for not making anything public during the passage of the law, which could carry a life sentence. He said it’s “most ridiculous and preposterous” that even Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng said they have not yet seen the detailed contents of the bill.

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