Hong Kong riot police issue a warning as they aim to clear away people gathered downtownon Wednesday. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong riot police fired pepper pellets at activists and surrounded the Legislative Council during demonstrations against a bill proposing to criminalize "disrespect of the Chinese Anthem" on Wednesday, per Reuters.

Why it matters: The bill is the latest concern pro-democracy protesters have that Chinese authorities are encroaching on the high degree of autonomy the former British colony has retained since it was returned to China in 1997.

The big picture: The Asian financial hub was crippled last year during several flash-points between police and protesters rallying in their tens of thousands against China's attempts to introduce an extradition bill that was later withdrawn.

  • Protesters held smaller protests maintaining physical-distancing as the novel coronavirus hit Hong Kong this year, with authorities banning gatherings of more than eight people.
  • But clashes between police and demonstrators returned on Sunday, as thousands rallied against China's plans to implement a national security law.

What to watch: White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien warned Sunday that the U.S. will likely impose economic sanctions on Hong Kong and China if Beijing moves ahead with the proposed security law.

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