From the get go, however, it was clear the authorities had no intention of tolerating the protest, which had not received police permission. As crowds gathered in the Causeway Bay shopping district, they were met by an exceptionally large police presence and warnings that any protest would be in violation of both the city's public order laws and coronavirus social distancing measures.
Hong Kong police were roundly criticized over their heavy-handed tactics last year, including most recently by a former member of a government-sponsored panel looking into the protests. On Sunday it was not just the force police used -- tear gas, baton charges, and water cannon against unarmed, mostly peaceful protesters -- but also the speed at which they deployed it. The first round of tear gas was fired within 25 minutes of the proposed start time for the march.