Hong Kong set to invoke colonial-era law for ban on masks at protests

Updated: Oct 04, 2019, 08:32 IST | Agencies |

Legislators warn a mask ban and any harsh measures would only alienate the people further

File photo of a protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask in Hong Kong. Pic/AFP
File photo of a protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask in Hong Kong. Pic/AFP

Hong Kong: The increasingly widespread violence in Hong Kong has prompted rising calls from police associations and some pro-Beijing groups for tougher measures, including curfews and a mask ban to prevent protesters from concealing their identities.

The Hong Kong government is soon expected to announce a ban on wearing masks at public gatherings under a colonial-era law, according to reports. Emergency Regulations Ordinance has not been used in the city in half a century.

The Junior Police Officers Association, representing front-line officers, said the force has been stretched thin. In a statement on Wednesday, it urged Chief Executive Carrie Lam's government to impose a curfew and other emergency measures to quell riots and maintain public order.

Lam has not commented since she returned from National Day celebrations in Beijing. Local media reported that she will hold a special meeting of her Executive Council on Friday to discuss the mask ban, which could be imposed under an emergency law. Lam's office said it has no immediate comment. Some legislators warned Thursday that a mask ban and any harsh measures would only alienate the people further and possibly prompt a more ferocious backlash.

Ip Kin-yuen, a legislator representing the education sector, said it would be akin to “adding oil to the fire” and further weaken the government in dealing with the crisis. Pro-Beijing legislator Michael Tien said protesters could challenge a mask ban and any curfew order, just as tens of thousands of people have defied police bans on rallies and taken to the streets in the past months.

But he said it could work if the government also responds to at least the key demand of the protesters, which is to hold an independent inquiry into police brutality. “They need to use carrot and stick at the same time,” Tien said.

Shot teen charged with rioting

The teenager, who was the first victim of police gunfire in Hong Kong's months-long pro-democracy protests, was charged on Thursday with rioting and attacking police. The shooting occurred during widespread violence on Tuesday across Hong Kong that marred China's National Day celebrations. The officer fired at close range as Tsang Chi-kin, 18, struck him with a rod. The government said Tsang's condition was stable after surgery. The case against Tsang was heard by a court Thursday afternoon. He was among seven people charged with rioting, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Tsang also faces two additional counts of attacking two police officers, punishable by up to six months in prison.

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