Hong Kong emergency law bans face masks

Published: Oct 05, 2019, 11:13 IST | Agencies | Hong Kong

Thousands of masked protesters crammed streets challenging the ban set to take effect on Saturday

Protesters hit the streets after the government announced the ban in Hong Kong on Friday. Pic/AFP
Protesters hit the streets after the government announced the ban in Hong Kong on Friday. Pic/AFP

Hong Kong: Thousands of defiant masked protesters streamed into Hong Kong streets on Friday after the city's embattled leader invoked rarely used emergency powers to ban masks at rallies in a hardening of the government's stance after four months of anti-government demonstrations. Challenging the ban set to take effect Saturday, protesters crammed streets, shouting "Hong Kong people, resist." Carrie Lam said at an afternoon news conference that the mask ban, imposed under a colonial-era Emergency Ordinance that was last used over half a century ago, targets violent protesters and rioters and "will be an effective deterrent to radical behaviour."

One-year jail for offenders

The ban makes the wearing of full or partial face coverings, including face paint, at public gatherings punishable by one year in jail. A six-month jail term could be imposed on people who refuse cop's order to remove a facemask. Lam said she would go to the legislature later to get legal backing for the rule. "We must save Hong Kong, the present Hong Kong and the future Hong Kong," she said. "We must stop the violence ... we can't just leave the situation to get worse and worse."

Ban challenged in court

Two activists immediately filed legal challenges in court on grounds that the mask ban will instill fear and curtail freedom of speech and assembly. The High Court was hearing a bid late Friday to halt the ban. China threw its support behind the ban, saying the move was "extremely necessary" after months of unrest.

Carrie Lam should quit: Malaysian PM

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Friday that Hong Kong's embattled leader should resign over the city's increasingly violent pro-democracy protests and warned China would take "harsh action" to end the demonstrations. Mahathir Mohamad — who at 94 is the world's oldest leader — said Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam "is in a dilemma". "She has to obey the masters, at the same time she has to ask her conscience," he told a press conference. "Her conscience says that the people of Hong Kong are right in rejecting the (extradition) law," he added. "But on the other hand, she knows the consequence of rejecting the law." "For the administrator (Lam), I think (the) best thing is to resign," Mahathir said.

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