Hong Kong May Ban Face Masks By Invoking Colonial-Era Emergency Powers

Hong Kong May Ban Face Masks By Invoking Colonial-Era Emergency Powers

Lam said that Hong Kong "isn't in a state emergency" but faces "extensive and very serious danger" after a surge in violent protests across the city.

Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok said a ban on masks would clearly mark the beginning of Hong Kong's transition into a totalitarian society.

The law gives Lam sweeping authority to enact orders and rules that might even go against existing rights and laws.

The last time it was used was during the 1967 riots when more than 50 people were killed over the course of a year as leftists, with the help of the People's Militia from mainland China, conducted a widespread bombing and murder campaign.

Protesters regularly wear a range of face masks in Hong Kong, from Guy Fawkes masks to thin surgical-style coverings and respirator-equipped face masks - which have the dual benefit of combating tear gas fired by police and obscuring the demonstrators' identities. He also faces two additional counts of attacking two police officers, punishable by up to six months in prison, the Associated Press reports.

A pro-government group, including lawmakers and lawyers, said Thursday that authorities should use the example of a Canadian law that imposes a jail sentence of up to 10 years on anyone wearing a mask during a riot or unlawful assembly.

Exemptions are available for religious and medical reasons and for those who need masks to do their jobs - such as reporters.

Before the announcement, thousands of masked protesters - many of them office workers - marched through the city's commercial district on Friday, promising to defy the new law.

Continued police violence could embolden protesters as they seek to justify their confrontational tactics, could boost denunciations of police conduct during the protests and could increase calls for an independent investigation of such conduct.

Many cars honked in support while stuck in traffic due to the protests. While it wouldn't bring protests to a halt, she said it would help reduce the violence that has wracked the territory.

The ordinance - previously denounced by protest leaders as a form of martial law - could give the government greater leeway to arrest citizens, censor publications, shut off communications networks and search premises without warrants, among other measures. Do you think this represents the government's last resort to try and end the ongoing street protests?

Despite Lam declaring Hong Kong is not in a state emergency, the leader deployed a colonial-era emergency law to impose the mask ban.

For the first time in nearly four months of anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong, a police officer shot a protester with live ammunition on October 1.

"If the anti-mask legislation proves to be ineffective, it could lead the way to more draconian measures such as a curfew and other infringement of civil liberties", said Willy Lam.

", a mask ban under emergency powers, an extension of [pre-charge] detention to 96 hours or more", he said.

Born after the historic July 1 day when Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, the 18-year-old protester who was shot at close range in the chest by a police officer during violent demonstrations this week and then arrested in the hospital is part of a generation for whom the clock is ticking. The wounded teenager was charged with attacking police and rioting.

"Given the current situation in Hong Kong, this is a necessary decision", she said. "We will never allow those masked rioters to undermine Hong Kong's prosperity and stability", said one petitioner surnamed Lee.

"We had officers stationed nearby and in plainclothes to monitor the situation".

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