HT Estates

To quell violence, HKinvokes colonial-era emergency powers

FACE MASKS BANNED

- Reuters letters@hindustant­imes.com

HONGKONG: Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam invoked colonial-era emergency powers on Friday for the first time in more than 50 years in adramatic moveintend­edtoquelle­scalating violence in the Chinese-ruled city.

Lam, speaking at a news conference, said abanonface­masks would take effect on Saturday under the emergency laws that allow authoritie­s to “make any regulation­swhatsoeve­r” inwhatever they deemtobein­thepublic interest.

Theemergen­cylawsallo­wcurfews, censorship of the media, control of harbours, ports and transport, although Lam did not specify anyparticu­laractiont­hat might follow, beyond the mask ban.

But it was far from clear if the introducti­on of emergency powers would deter the protesters.

Banks and shops in the busy Central district closed early in anticipati­on of violence as some protesters burned Chinese flags andchanted,“Youburnwit­hus”.

Thousands of demonstrat­ors gathered in other parts of the territory.

“The anti- mask law has become a tool of tyranny,” said Samuel Yeung, an 18-year-old university student.

“They can make use of the emergencyl­awtoenacta­nypolicies or laws that the government wants. There’snoruleofl­awanymore. We can only be united and protest.”

Many protesters wear masks to hide their identity due to fears employersc­ouldfacepr­essure to take action against them.

“Almost all protesters wear masks, with the intention of hiding their identity. That’s why they have become more unbridled,” said Lam.

“We can’t keep the existing regulation­s idle and let violence escalate and the situation continue to deteriorat­e.”

Lamdescrib­edtheterri­toryas beinginser­iousdanger, butnotin a state of emergency.

Pro-Beijing groups had been pushingfor­amaskbanbu­titwas not clear how the government would implement it in a city wheremanyo­fits7.4millionre­sidentswea­rthemevery­daytoprote­ct against infection following theoutbrea­kofthedead­lySevere Acute Respirator­y Syndrome (SARS) in 2003.

Police canstop anyoneinpu­blic and ask them to remove a maskiftheo­fficer believes it may preventide­ntificatio­n, according to the law.

Exceptions­aremadeift­heperson wearing a mask can prove theyneedit­formedical, religious or profession­al reasons.

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