Hong Kong media say police briefly detained a man in a Liverpool FC shirt who shouted “long live Liverpool” during anti-government protests on Wednesday, over suspicion he was inciting independence.
More than 370 people have been arrested in Hong Kong protests, including at least 10 for offences under the newly enacted national security laws which came into effect late on Tuesday night.
According to In-Media, the man was across the street from police officers who were conducting stop-and-searches on a group of protesters, when he shouted “long live Liverpool!” Others reportedly cheered and joined in the chant, before officers detained him.
The man told In-Media police had accused him of inciting Hong Kong independence – a now punishable crime.
He said he had been a fan of the English football team for 30 years and “felt an urge” to voice his feelings over their recent Premier League win. Ten minutes after his initial detention, he was released.
Thousands marched on Wednesday in defiance of protest bans and police warnings that acts of secession, including waving pro-independence flags or shouting slogans, could see them charged. They were met with tear gas, water cannon, pepper spray and pepper balls.
The majority of those arrested were for unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct in public, dangerous driving and possessing offensive weapons, the police force said.
However six men and four women were also arrested under the national security law. Police did not provide information on the individual offences. Earlier reports said those arrested included a 15-year-old girl, and a man who held a “Hong Kong Independence” flag, later revealed to have the words “no to” written in tiny lettering before the slogan.
Another man was seen being detained after police discovered a number of Taiwan flags in his possession. It is not clear if the two flag-bearing men were among the final 10.
The national security law, enacted in just six weeks in an opaque legislative process in Beijing, went into effect at 11pm on Tuesday. The full details of the law were published afterwards. On Wednesday afternoon Hong Kong’s security secretary, John Lee defended police arresting people under a law no one was familiar with.
“We will do education, but if something has outrageously broken the Hong Kong law, then the police have a duty to take action.”
Lee was explicit about the law’s aims to crush any community sentiments for independence.
“With education prevention and enforcement we can turn the tide to let people know that protection on national security is everybody’s responsibility, and that advocacy for independence in hong kong is against the law.”
Hong Kong police have been contacted for comment.