(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong activists staged a small but rare public protest against their government’s decision to enact a domestic security law during a senior Chinese official’s visit to the Asian finance hub.

Three members of the League of Social Democrats were seen unfolding a banner and chanting slogans including “The people are higher than the country” outside the Hong Kong government headquarters Tuesday, according to videos posted online by outlets including Hong Kong Free Press.

Protesters have largely disappeared from Hong Kong’s streets in the wake of a sweeping Beijing-imposed national security law and years of strict Covid curbs on public gatherings. Tuesday’s demonstration was closely watched by more than a dozen police officers, the AFP reported.

The LSD is one of the few remaining opposition groups in Hong Kong, and several of its members were detained in December and face charges over their dissent. The Chief Executive’s office didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the demonstration.

The protest against the proposed security bill known as Article 23 claimed the government’s process lacked democratic oversight — a marked contrast to public views expressed by Hong Kong and Chinese officials. Chief Executive John Lee told reporters Monday that he received largely positive reactions from the business community about the legislation.

Lee cited comments from representatives from foreign chambers during their closed-door meeting with Xia Baolong, Beijing’s top official in charge of Hong Kong. “They understood the reason for it, and they supported it, because in their country, they have similar laws,” he said during the media session. “In fact, a few even said that, with the stability ensured, then there is a good foundation for development.”

Xia has embarked on a weeklong inspection trip of Hong Kong as the city is seeking to revive a long-shelved attempt to enact the security law. The proposal has raised concern among some investors about potential chilling effect on open discussion of economic and policy issues.

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Xia said Monday during his meeting with about 40 local and foreign chambers that the “one country, two systems” formula setting Hong Kong apart from mainland Chinese cities will remain a “permanent structure,” South China Morning Post reported, citing an unidentified attendee.

Hong Kong is guaranteed a high degree of autonomy until at least 2047 under a political arrangement enshrined in the city’s mini-constitution. Beijing’s crackdown on dissent in recent years has eroded rights once seen as fundamental to the freewheeling hub’s success. Prominent observers including former Morgan Stanley Asia Ltd. chair Stephen Roach have called on Beijing to commit to the model to revive growth in the city.

The reported remarks by Xia add to Chinese top leaders’ previous commitment to Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status. President Xi Jinping said in July 2022 of the “one country, two systems” policy: “There is no reason for us to change such a good policy, and we must adhere to it in the long run.”

Xia’s trip comes at a crucial time for Hong Kong’s political and economic future. The city briefly lost its place to India as the world’s fourth-largest stock market earlier this year as global capital poured out of China.

In 2020, Beijing tightened its grip over Hong Kong by imposing a broad national security law, a move that followed historic and sometimes violent protests in the former British colony. The crackdown on civil liberties, coupled with strict Covid curbs, has prompted thousands of residents to leave Hong Kong in recent years, leading to a talent drain on the financial sector that’s a linchpin of the city.

Lee last month unveiled a broad plan to pass the city’s own security legislation, which offers vague definitions of issues such as state secrets and espionage. The one-month consultation period on the Article 23 bill ends Wednesday, when the city is also set to unveil its annual budget.

(Updates with a public protest against Article 23 throughout the story)

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