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Hong Kong faced a new reality on Wednesday as China began enforcing a sweeping security law that could reshape the financial hub’s character 23 years after Beijing took control of the former British colony.

The new law’s provisions went beyond what many investors, democracy advocates and even pro-Beijing politicians expected, prompting warnings it would have a chilling effect on free speech and political activities related to Hong Kong. Leaders in Beijing and Hong Kong did nothing to allay those worries during briefings to explain the 35-page law which was first unveiled as it came into effect late Tuesday, even as thousands hit the streets in defiance.

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