To quell violence, HKinvokes colonial-era emergency powers
FACE MASKS BANNED
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.