Hong Kong leader, Carrie Lam, on Friday, banned the wearing of face masks at “unlawful and unauthorised” protests in order to help quell the violent demonstrations that have rocked the city for nearly four months.
“Although we are evoking the emergency regulation, Hong Kong is not in a state of emergency,’’ Lam said.
She added that public order was now in danger from radical student protesters who had vandalised underground stations and thrown petrol bombs at police.
The regulation, which is due to go into effect at midnight (1600 GMT), says protesters could face up to one year in prison and a fine of up to 25,000 Hong Kong dollars ($3,187) for failing to comply under the new legislation.
The law offers exemptions to residents who need to wear face coverings for medical conditions, religious reasons or professional employment.
It will only extend to “unlawful assemblies” of more than five people.
Although, most anti-government demonstrations in recent weeks have proceeded without approval as police failed to give approval to marches organised by the democracy coalition Civil Human Rights Front.
“By banning the use of facial coverings, this will prevent people from breaking the law.
“This is not unreasonable,’’ said Secretary for Security, John Lee.
“We see that public order in Hong Kong is under serious threat.
“Some acted violently, very violently.
“So now, everyone – journalists, citizens and police – is in danger.’’
Masks have been worn across the protest movement, including by journalists and medical volunteers, to conceal identity but also for safety as police regularly fire tear gas and pepper spray for crowd dispersal.
Journalists, however, will be exempted from the law, according to Lee.
The mask regulation makes use of little-used legislation from 1922 that grants the chief executive sweeping powers, although it will have to be approved formally when the legislature returns to session in two weeks to become law.
The decision, which was leaked by local media on Thursday, has already been widely criticised as unconstitutional and Lam’s use of the Emergency Regulations Ordinance will likely face a judicial review by Hong Kong’s common-law courts.
“When the legislation was enacted, there was no human rights law in effect during that time.
“The law itself gives full power to the government to regulate any behaviour considered unsuitable,’’ Billy Li, a convenor of Hong Kong’s Progressive Lawyers’ Group, told dpa.
Since 1922, Hong Kong has become a party to a number of intentional human rights treaties including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, he said.
A mask ban may be more challenging to overturn as similar laws exist in other common-law jurisdictions.
Canada in 2013 introduced an anti-mask law for “riots and unlawful assemblies’’ that carries up to 10 years in prison.
A number of U.S. states and cities also have historic anti-mask laws, many of which are linked to the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan group.
Li, however, said the anti-mask legislation would likely have little or no deterrent effect as the threat of jail time for “unlawful assembly” and “rioting” has not kept Hong Kongers from the streets since demonstrations began on June 9.
The mask ban was expected to lead to more protests over the weekend, even as demonstrations near the four-month mark.
They began against a separate piece of legislation also championed by Lam that would have allowed for Hong Kong residents to stand trial in mainland China.
Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong said on Twitter on Friday that the mask law was “no less harmful than the extradition bill as virtually the law gives the Chief Executive mighty power to impose whatever she and Beijing like’’.
He also tweeted that Hong Kong would see more “arbitrary arrest and search, extending detention to 96 hours or more, banning internet access, de facto martial laws are highly expected’’.
Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde
- Nasarawa to provide schools with water, sanitation facilities
- SDGs: Quality, inclusive education my priority – Gov. Sule
- States can’t withdraw from minimum wage agreement, law binding to all — NLC
- U.S. to provide life-saving HIV treatment to 43,000 people in Imo
- Bauchi govt.to spend N12 bn to build 2,500 houses in 2020–Official
- Farmer calls for establishment of livestock agency to boost beef, dairy production
- Putin condemns EU stance on Nazi-Soviet WWII pact as ‘shameless lie’
- U.S. aviation regulator not likely clear 737 MAX before end of 2019
- We are on track in improving Manchester United, Solskjaer says
- NiMet predicts sunny, hazy weather condictions for Thursday
- FG says tackling global health problems requires global disciplinary cooperation, expertise
- Makinde signs Oyo State Anti- Corruption Bill into law
- Yuletide: Sanwo-Olu’s wife urges Nigerians to be security conscious
- Defamation: Edo Ex-speaker demands N500m from APC chieftain
- Anthony Joshua to present world championship belts to Buhari soon
- NLNG signs sales deal with Vitol SA on Train 1, 2 and 3
- NOC sets up 4-man committee on AFN crisis
- Plateau Govt. repeals disability commission act, to enact new law
- HIV/AIDS: Kwara Dep. Gov. harps on regular medical check-up
- End your strike to allow for negotiation, NECA urges electricity workers
- Committee expresses determination to host successful Abuja 2020 Para-Powerlifting Championships
- LASG to convert Majidun Rehab Centre to psychiatric hospital – Commissioner
- Christmas: FRSC promises free flow of traffic on Kaduna highways
- LASTMA arrests 25 for driving against traffic
- 261 Ogun pilgrims depart for Jerusalem
- I will alleviate your suffering, Makinde assures pensioners
- Practitioners that violate CRFFN Act risk expulsion, says governing council
- Education, powerful tool for driving growth, human devt.–Oyebode
- Alleged pension scam: How Maina illegally acquired property in son’s name–EFCC witness
- YouTube updates harassment policy to ban implicit threats, insults
- HMD Global launches new devices to enhance creativity, excitement for users
- No ‘dark Christmas’: S African leader promises action over power cuts
- Nigerian reseacher flays promotion of bone marrow transplant for HIV/AIDS cure
- INEC tasks stakeholders on free, fair elections
- Commission issues Certificates of Return to 16 LG chairmen in Ekiti
- NIS rolls out enhanced E-passport in Lagos
- World Pensioners’ Day: Adamawa pensioners demand fair treatment by politicians
- NSE indices record first gain in December, up 0.19%
- NCAT begins training in Drones operation
- Kwara community donates N3m office, motorcycle to NSCDC
- Defence equipment: Buratai wants Chinese firms to establish production line in Nigeria
- How to end insecurity–Gov. Oyetola
- Pension scam: Maina’s sister, Fatima, distance self from coys, bank accounts linked to her
- Cleric advises Christians to imbibe Jesus Christ virtues as they celebrate Christmas
- Reps to intervene in planned strike by NUEE
- FEC approves N307.5m for NAFDAC operational vehicles
- Electricity workers shutdown IE, EKEDC offices
- Rape: Oxfam seeks specialised training for police, legal practitioners
- PDP releases timetable for Edo municipal, state congresses
- Group calls for multi-stakeholders’ collaboration to tackle cultism