Thousands protest mask ban as Hong Kong leader toughens stance

Thousands protest mask ban as Hong Kong leader toughens stance
An anti-government protester wears a Dead Pool mask throughout an illustration in Wong Tai Sin district, in Hong Kong. (REUTERS)

Masked protesters streamed into the streets in central Hong Kong on Friday after town’s embattled leader invoked hardly ever used emergency powers to ban masks at rallies in a hardening of the federal government’s stance after 4 months of anti-government demonstrations.

Immediately defying the ban set to take impact Saturday, hundreds of protesters crammed streets within the central business district shouting “Hong Kong, resist.”

Lam stated at a day information convention that the mask ban, imposed beneath a colonial-era Emergency Ordinance that was final used over half a decade in the past, targets violent protesters and rioters and “will be an effective deterrent to radical behavior.”

The ban applies to all public gatherings, each unauthorized and people accepted by police.

Lam confused it doesn’t imply the semi-autonomous Chinese territory is in a state of emergency. She stated she would go to the legislature later to get authorized backing for the rule.

“We must save Hong Kong, the present Hong Kong and the future Hong Kong,” she stated. “We must stop the violence … we can’t just leave the situation to get worse and worse.”

Local media reported that two activists instantly filed authorized challenges in court docket towards the mask ban.

The ban makes the carrying of full or partial face coverings, together with face paint, at public gatherings punishable by one yr in jail. A six-month jail time period may very well be imposed on individuals who refuse a police officer’s order to take away a face protecting for identification.

Masks can be permitted for “legitimate need,” when their wearers can show that they want them for work, well being or non secular causes.

“Will they arrest 100,000 folks on the road? The authorities is attempting to intimidate us however at this second, I don’t suppose the folks can be scared,“ stated a protester who gave his surname as Lui.

Lam wouldn’t rule out an additional toughening of measures if violence continues. She stated she wouldn’t resign as a result of “stepping down is not something that will help the situation” when Hong Kong is in “a very critical state of public danger.”

Thousands of masked protesters started marching within the metropolis’s business district and different areas earlier than Lam spoke. The rally grew within the night as protesters vowed they wouldn’t be intimidated. Some used steel railings and different objects to dam roads and set avenue fires, together with burning a Chinese flag.

“The Hong Kong police are also wearing their masks when they’re doing their job. And they don’t show their pass and their number,” stated protester Ernest Ho. “So I’ll nonetheless hold my mask on all over the place.“

Face masks have turn out to be an indicator of protesters in Hong Kong, even at peaceable marches. As the usage of police tear fuel has turn out to be widespread, many younger protesters have worn heavier responsibility gear together with full fuel masks and goggles.

Even peaceable masked marchers cite fears they may lose jobs and be denied entry to education, public housing and different government-funded services if recognized as having taken half in demonstrations.

Many are also involved their identities may very well be shared with the large state-security equipment that helps hold the Communist Party in energy throughout the border in mainland China, the place high-tech surveillance together with facial recognition technology is ubiquitous.

Analysts stated the usage of the Emergency Ordinance set a harmful precedent. The regulation, a relic of British rule enacted in 1922 to quell a seamen’s strike and final used to crush riots in 1967, provides broad powers to town’s chief government to implement rules in an emergency.

“Even though the mask ban is just a small move under the Emergency Ordinance, it is a dangerous first step. If the anti-mask legislation proves to be ineffective, it could lead the way to more draconian measures such as a curfew and other infringement of civil liberties,” stated Willy Lam, adjunct professor on the Chinese University.

Lam bristled at a suggestion that the ban nudges Hong Kong nearer to the authoritarian rule imposed by the Communist Party throughout the remainder of China. She insisted she was not performing beneath orders from the central authorities in Beijing, which she visited this week when Communist Party leaders celebrated 70 years in energy on Tuesday.

The ban adopted widespread violence within the metropolis Tuesday that marred China’s National Day and included a police officer taking pictures a protester, the primary sufferer of gunfire because the protests began in June over a now-shelved extradition invoice. The wounded teenager was charged with attacking police and rioting.

The motion has snowballed into an anti-China marketing campaign amid anger over what many view as Beijing’s interference in Hong Kong’s autonomy. More than 1,750 folks have been detained thus far.

Activists and plenty of legislators have warned the mask ban may very well be counterproductive, impractical and tough to implement in a metropolis effervescent with anger and the place tens of hundreds have typically defied police bans on rallies.

The authorities final month withdrew the extradition invoice, extensively slammed as an instance of the erosion of Hong Kong’s freedom, however protesters have widened their calls for to incorporate direct elections of town’s leaders, an unbiased inquiry into alleged police brutality, the unconditional launch of protesters and never characterizing the protests as riots.

“Five demands, not one less!” many protesters shouted throughout Friday’s rallies as they held up 5 fingers.

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