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Protesters, including League of Social Democrats lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Avery Ng gathered outside the Family Planning Association in Wan Chai and demanded the end of the one party rule and abolishment of the national security law, which critics fear will crush wide-ranging freedoms promised to Hong Kong for 50 years when it returned to Beijing under a “one country, two systems” style of governance.

Hong Kong authorities threw a security blanket across the city early on Wednesday, the 23rd anniversary of the former British colony’s handover to Chinese rule, hours after new national security legislation took effect in the financial hub.

The contentious law will punish crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, heralding a more authoritarian era for China’s freest city.

At the protest on Wednesday, Avery Ng secretary General of League of Social Democrats said, “probably in the future we may never see a million people on the street again, not because we are satisfied with the government but because we are now living in fear. But I still have hopes and do believe in Hong Kong especially the younger generation that will keep on fighting.”

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