The streets of Hong Kong were quiet on Saturday morning as dozens of shopping malls and banks closed their doors and MTR services remained suspended.
Protesters gathered the night before in almost every district across the city to protest an anti-mask law, which Chief Executive Carrie Lam enacted through emergency legislation. During the night, an off-duty police officer shot a 14-year-old in the thigh during a skirmish with a crowd of protesters in Yuen Long.
The rail operator took the unprecedented step of shutting down all of its services at around 10:30pm on Friday, and in the early hours of Saturday announced that the suspension will continue until further notice.
“Since outbreaks of violence continue to occur at multiple districts, maintenance staff is unable to travel to the damaged stations to inspect and assess the extent of damages at our stations
or to carry out repair works,” the MTR Corporation said.
Most major banks in Hong Kong also kept their services to a minimum. The Bank of China – which has been the target of protesters’ ire – said that some of its facilities were “seriously damaged,” and closed all of its branches except for the one at Bank of China Tower.
Chinese-owned banks ICBC, CCB and Wing Lung Bank closed all of their branches for the day.
HSBC said that only five of its offices were open on Saturday: its Hong Kong Island headquarters, as well as its branches in Mong Kok, Tsim Sha Tsui, Tsuen Wan and Kwun Tong.
The Hang Seng Bank said only its Hong Kong island and Kowloon headquarters were in service. Standard Chartered and the Bank of East Asia both said that services were limited to their Central offices.
Supermarket ParknShop announced on Saturday morning that it would shutter all its stores for the day. The Watsons chain store stopped all services except for their airport outlet.
According to local media reports, more than 15 shopping malls also closed its doors, including the IFC mall in Central, Elements, World Trade Centre in Causeway Bay, MOKO mall in Mong Kok, Kwun Tong’s APM, V Walk in Sham Shui Po, Yoho Mall in Yuen Long and more.
Secretary for Security John Lee on Saturday said that it was “expected” that the anti-mask regulation would be met with some resistance. Speaking on a radio programme, he said that the police have not yet reported making any arrests under the new law.
The aim of the law was to curb the trend of people breaking the law while masked, Lee said, though he admitted that the current situation cannot be solved with one regulation.
Appearing in a televised message with top officials on Saturday, Lam condemned violent protests and defended the use of the Emergency Regulations Ordinance. She said many businesses were closed on Saturday.
“The extreme behaviour of rioters caused a very dark night in Hong Kong, semi-paralysing Hong Kong society, making many people very worried and scared,” she said. “The Hong Kong SAR is determined to stop violence. I urge you to support the SAR government to stop violence in accordance with the law, condemn violence, and be determined in severing ties with rioters.”
The Hospital Authority said on Saturday morning that 31 people were hospitalised as a result of the clashes, with two in a serious condition. The 14-year-old boy shot in the thigh was in stable condition after being treated at Tuen Mun Hospital.
Yang Guang, spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of China’s central government, voiced support for the law on Friday: “The current chaos in Hong Kong cannot continue indefinitely. Now it has reached an important moment to stop the storm with a more distinct attitude and more effective measures… An important moment has come for stopping the violence with a clearer attitude and more effective measures.”
However, senior China researcher Maya Wang at NGO Human Rights Watch said that the authorities should be upholding rights, not undermining them.
“The face mask ban suggests that the government is willing to go even further to violate rights to quell the protests,” she said. “Concerned governments should be speaking out about this new restriction on fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong or expect to see even more draconian measures in the future.”
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