More mass protests were sparked on Friday after the Hong Kong government invoked emergency legislation to ban masks at protests.
The government said the law, banning people from wearing masks at any lawful or unlawful demonstration, was intended to halt violent protests. Offenders could be sentenced to a year in jail and a fine of HK$25,000. Exemptions include those wearing masks at protests for professional or paid work – such as journalists, or for cases involving religious or medical reasons. The law will be in effect from midnight on Friday.
Before the announcement was made, protesters marched in Central – the main business district of Hong Kong, in opposition to the emergency legislation.
The anti-mask law was enacted by invoking the colonial law Emergency Regulations Ordinance, introduced in 1922. It has not been used since the 1967 leftist riots.
After the law was announced at 3pm, hundreds wearing medical masks gathered in Central again and blocked Connaught Road Central near Exchange Square.
“Hong Kong people, resist!” they chanted, as some set fires in the road.
“Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our times” they shouted. “Disband the police force now.”
Protesters, including many in school uniforms, blocked the intersection between Tim Fuk Road and Waterloo Road in Kowloon Tong at 4:30pm. They quickly left after 15 minutes.
There were calls for rallies in seven districts on Friday night, including New Town Plaza in Shatin, the government offices in Tuen Mun, Sha Tsui Road Playground in Tsuen Wan, Wong Tai Sin Plaza, Maple Street Playground in Sham Shui Po, Southorn Playground in Wan Chai, and Salisbury Garden in Tsim Sha Tsui.
After the announcement, many shopping malls, businesses, schools said they would close early.
They included the IFC mall, Hysan Place, the World Trade Centre, Pacific Place on Hong Kong Island; Festival Walk, APM, MetroPlaza, K11, MOKO in Kowloon; New Town Plaza, V City, Yoho in New Territories, among others.
Baptist University ended the day early, whilst the Hong Kong Academy For Performing Arts and Chu Hai College announced the suspension of classes. Some teachers at Lingnan University have also suspended their classes.
The Jockey Club closed all branches at 5:30pm.
Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok said the anti-mask law stripped the Legislative Council of its power to enact laws.
“This is unconstitutional,” he said, as legal challenges have were filed against the anti-mask law. “The government said the law was used to handle public danger. But this law will only create a bigger political confrontation.”
The NGO alliance Civil Human Rights Front said top officials will “bear the eternal crime of the fall of Hong Kong.”
“Carrie Lam and her government cabinet has not deeply reflected upon the things that led to the events happening today, and they have also not been changing their course of action to help recover the public’s faith and confidence in the government,” it said. “Instead, they have intensified its efforts to suppress the people with malevolent laws to further suppress citizens and aggravate the contradiction between society and the political power, further pushing Hong Kong into the abyss.”
The Front said it will try to apply for a march against the anti-mask law, despite its previous march applications have been banned by the police.
“Civil Human Rights Front believes that even though the police and the Appeal Board on Public Meetings and Processions will continue to oppose to our efforts in organizing lawful protests, Hong Kong people will not be fearful and back down easily,” it said.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also voices said: “Political dialogue is the only way to resolve the situation in Hong Kong. While governments need to ensure the security and safety of their people, they must avoid aggravating and instead reduce tensions.”
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