Xinhua Headlines: Unrest-hit Hong Kong outlaws masks in protests

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, October 05, 2019
Adjust font size:

HONG KONG, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- The government of China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) established an anti-mask law on Friday 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 put in place 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, Italy and many states in the United States.


The Asian trading and financial hub has been plagued by unrest since June as radical protesters, often black-clad and masked, set fires on streets, vandalized public facilities including metro stations, assaulted police and beat up civilians who held different political views.

The unrest originated from protests over the proposed ordinance amendments concerning fugitives' transfers. Although the HKSAR government has withdrawn the amendments, violence continued as protesters veered off their original agenda to raise the ante, causing a split in society and taking a heavy toll on the economy.

Although Hong Kong did not enter a state of emergency by invoking the emergency powers, Lam said Hong Kong is in extensive and serious public danger.

The chief executive 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.

"We are indeed in an occasion of serious danger, which is a stated condition in Emergency Regulations Ordinance for the Chief Executive in Council to exercise certain powers," she said. "It is essential for us to stop violence and restore calmness in society as soon as possible."

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


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 face a jail term of up to one year and a fine as much as 25,000 Hong Kong dollars (nearly 3,200 U.S. dollars).

Hong Kong saw many authorized and peaceful rallies morph into violence in recent weeks as radicals marched out of the designated zones to block roads and engaged in illegal acts from arson to assaulting the police.

The ban has set exemptions for people who have to wear a mask for special needs, including for medical, health and religious reasons, according to the government gazette.

Lam also made it clear that the new law is subject to a negative vetting and will be tabled in the Legislative Council (LegCo) for discussion. The meeting of the LegCo will be resumed on Oct. 16.


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.

Ronny Tong, barrister and a member of the HKSAR's Executive Council, said legal weapons are now needed to quell the mob violence, which spiked on Tuesday and resulted in an 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 on the freedoms of speech and assembly and has no impact on law-abiding citizens.

Prior to Hong Kong, anti-mask legislation has been used in a number of countries to deter mobsters, said Lawrence Ma, barrister and chairman of the Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation.

"What the HKSAR government did is in line with international practice and is beyond reproach," said Ma.


The Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council said the establishment of the anti-mask law was necessary.

Yang Guang, a spokesperson for the office, expressed confidence in the ability of the HKSAR government led by Lam to safeguard the rule of law, protect Hong Kong residents' freedom from fear of violence and restore social order as soon as possible.

The Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR also expressed its firm support for the mask ban. It said the central government has always adhered to the "one country, two systems" principle, a determination that will not change and waver, but will never tolerate the repeated occurrence of acts that endanger the national sovereignty and security.

Numerous social and political groups and chambers of commerce in Hong Kong also voiced support to the establishment of the regulation.

The Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong said the recent tumult had a serious negative impact on the business environment and confidence, and expressed its support for the mask ban and other efforts to curb violence.

Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), a political group in Hong Kong, said in a statement that establishing the anti-mask law is a difficult but absolutely necessary decision as Hong Kong is in a state of serious public danger where people's safety and freedom of expression can not be guaranteed.

The DAB called on all Hong Kong residents to support the new regulation, draw a clear line with illegal and violent acts and support the police in their law enforcement, so as to bring Hong Kong back on track.

An online petition supporting the ban has also been signed by more than 40,000 netizens within a few hours since it was launched, said lawmaker Elizabeth Quat, the convenor of an advocate group behind the initiative.

"It showed people's support for the new law and their urge for restoring social order," said Quat, who however believed the punishment is too lenient and advised the government to raise punishment if necessary. Enditem

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from