Banning protesters from wearing masks would infringe upon their freedom of assembly and further divide society, Path of Democracy convenor and barrister Ronny Tong Ka-wah has said.

On a DBC radio show on Monday, Tong responded to the proposal to ban masks at protests: “I have some reservations, because unlike other countries, HongKongers have always been proud of their peaceful protests and violent incidents are rare.”

Ronny Tong Ka-wah. File Photo: Stand News.

“Under one country two systems, freedom of expression and assembly are an important part of our culture and one of our core values,” he said. “Infringing upon these freedoms… it would be a sensitive issue and may further divide society.”

“If these acts become a regular occurrence, we may need to discuss whether to legislate to ban masks during protests, but I think such one-off behaviour does not show that there is a need for these laws,” Tong said, adding that it would be too hasty to implement such laws.

Photo: Kris Cheng, HKFP.

He said he had watched the Mong Kok unrest through the news on the television and believed that it was appropriate to charge the protesters with rioting, as the circumstances had met the definition described in the ordinance; however, whether they would be found guilty would depend on the ruling of the court, RTHK reported. Tong also said that prosecuting them with such a crime was not necessarily political – it was merely an act of law enforcement.

In response to calls for an independent investigation, Tong said it may be difficult as judicial proceedings had already begun. He also said that it might result in different voices in society blaming each other.

Fresh LegCo ambitions 

Tong was also asked whether his political think-tank, Path of Democracy, would field candidates in the Legislative Council elections, to which he replied that one of their goals was to increase their political influence and to eventually have a seat on the council.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.