2nd LD: Unrest-hit Hong Kong outlaws wearing masks in protests

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, October 04, 2019
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HONG KONG, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- The government of China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on Friday established an anti-mask law in the latest drive to end the prolonged violence.

HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam told a press conference that the government has invoked the power under the Emergency Regulations Ordinance and passed the Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation to "create a deterrent effect against masked, violent protesters and rioters."

The ban, designed to end violence and restore order, will come into effect on Saturday, Lam said.

The move added Hong Kong to the list of countries and regions that have anti-mask legislations, including France, Canada and many states in the United States.

Unrest has raged for more than three months in Hong Kong as radical protesters, often black-clad and masked, set fires on streets, vandalized public facilities including metro stations, and assaulted police, civilians and businesses.

Lam said violence has escalated to a very alarming level in the past few days, causing numerous injuries, and "leading Hong Kong to a chaotic and panic situation," with more participation of students.

About 1,100 people have been injured in recent violent incidents, including over 300 law enforcers, according to Lam.

Although the emergency ordinance has been invoked, Lam stressed that Hong Kong is not in a state of emergency. However, she stated Hong Kong is in extensive and serious public danger. "It is essential for us to stop violence and restore calmness in society as soon as possible."

Elaborating on the new regulation, Secretary for Security John Lee said masks will be banned in assemblies and processions, authorized or not, as well as riots, and offenders are liable to imprisonment of up to one year and a fine as much as 25,000 Hong Kong dollars (nearly 3,200 U.S. dollars).

People who have to wear a mask for special needs, including for medical, health and religious reasons, will be applicable to exemption clauses, according to the government gazette.

Advocates for the ban said masks have been used by rioters to conceal identities and escape legal penalties in the drawn-out unrest, leading to a higher level of aggression on their part.

"Many police officers and residents were injured in the escalated violence, but the police could not bring all rioters to justice as most of them wore masks to hide identities," said Elsie Leung, former secretary for justice of the HKSAR government.

"It is the right thing that should be done," Leung said, adding that the introduction of the law is in line with the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance.

Barrister Ronny Tong, a member of the HKSAR's Executive Council, said legal weapons are now needed to quell the mob violence, which escalated on Tuesday and resulted in a 18-year-old rioter being shot and injured while assaulting a police officer.

Tong called for public understandings that the anti-mask law is not meant to encroach the freedoms of speech and assembly and has no impact on law-abiding citizens.

The anti-mask law, as a piece of subsidiary legislation subject to a negative vetting, will be firstly established and then tabled in the Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo) for discussion. The meeting of the LegCo will be resumed on Oct. 16. Enditem

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