A member of the government’s top advisory body has said the authorities would not rule out internet controls in order to curb the ongoing protests.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam, after seeking advice from the Executive Council, invoked powers under the Emergency Regulations Ordinance and enacted an anti-mask law on Saturday. However, the new law sparked fresh demonstrations and unrest over the weekend.

Ip Kwok-him, a member of the Executive Council, said during a Commercial Radio programme on Monday that the government will observe whether the new law will halt the protests.

Ip Kwok-him
Ip Kwok-him. File

“At this stage, the government will consider all legal means to stop the riots,” he said. “We would not rule out a ban on the internet.”

Mass protests have against the now-scrapped extradition bill have entered their 18th week. However, the protests have morphed into wider calls for democracy and calls for an investigation into alleged police brutality. The latest demand is the disbandment of the police force, as scenes of unrest and violence escalate.

Protesters have been widely using online and digital tools, such as the Telegram messaging app and the Reddit-like LIHKG forum, to organise themselves and plan protests.

october 6 mong kok poliec
Photo: May James/HKFP.

However, Ip’s Executive Council colleague and lawmaker Regina Ip said banning websites would not be feasible in an interview with TVB news channel broadcast on Sunday.

“It would cause a massive shock – it is not worthwhile,” she said.

Free expression

The new anti-mask law not only bans masks at unauthorised protests, but also at protests authorised by the police.

Ip said that he did not believe the legislation was radicalising more residents, after the majority of demonstrators over the weekend donned facial coverings.

Asked why protesters could not hide their identities at authorised protests, Ip said: “At a legal march approved [by police], residents have their freedom of expression – I don’t understand why they still have to wear [masks].”

Hong Kong Island. Photo: May James / HKFP.
Hong Kong Island. Photo: May James / HKFP.

A Chinese University of Hong Kong recent survey found that around 80 per cent of residents supported the formation of an independent commission of inquiry into police behaviour.

Ip said he did not believe fulfilling the demand would immediately stop the protests. “They initially asked for withdrawal of the extradition bill, and now we have withdrawn it,” but the protests continued, Ip said.

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Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.