Police fired tear gas at the crowds less than an hour after the start of the march, which did not receive official authorization and went against coronavirus social distancing restrictions, which ban groups of more than eight people meeting. An online stream showed protesters throwing objects at police.
Protesters had begun gathering around midday in Causeway Bay, a busy shopping district, despite a heavy police presence across Hong Kong Island. Attempts to claim the march was a permitted "health talk" were unsuccessful, and police quickly declared the protest illegal and ordered people to disperse.
Others chanted "Hong Kong independence, the only way out," and others flew blue, pro-independence flags. Such activity could likely be illegal under the proposed security law. Beijing has often expressed outrage over separatist sentiment in the city, which remains a niche issue but gained influence during last year's unrest.
Asked if she was worried about the potential repercussions of chanting such slogans, Macy Wong, 26, said that she was comfortable doing so, as others were doing the same.
"Independence is Hong Kong's long-term goal," Wong said. "Maybe it's not feasible in the near future, but that's ultimately what we want."