Carrie Lam, Hong Kong Chief Executive, on Friday, banned the wearing of face masks during unapproved protests, to help the government identify persons behind the violent protests that have rocked the city for 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 is in danger from radical student protesters, who have vandalised underground stations and thrown petrol bombs at police.
The new regulation, which is due to go into effect at midnight, stipulates that protesters could face up to one year in prison, and a fine of up to $3,187 for failing to comply with the legislation.
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However, the law provides exemption to residents who need to wear face coverings for medical conditions, religious reasons or professional employment. The law will only extend to “unlawful assemblies” of more than five people.
Most anti-government demonstrations in recent weeks have gone ahead without government’s approval, because police refused to approve protests organised by 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,’’ Secretary for Security, John Lee stated.
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“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.
Journalists and medical volunteers have also have to wear masks during the protests, to protect themselves from teargas and pepper spray fired by police to disperse protesters.
The new law would have to be formally approved into law by the Hong Kong legislature, when they resume in two weeks’ time.