Many of Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters defy face ban

Hong Kong peaceful pro-democracy protest
Hong Kong peaceful pro-democracy protest Copyright Reuters
By Daniel Bellamy with Reuters
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After a night of unrest, protesters return to the city's streets, this time peacefully.


After protesters on Friday went on the rampage in Hong Kong — which saw police shoot a teenage boy and pro-democracy protesters torch businesses and metro stations — hundreds took to the streets again on Saturday, this time peacefully.

Friday's unrest came in response to the introduction of a colonial-era emergency law which bans face masks. They're worn to disguise protesters from the police and prevent arrest.

Some of Saturday's protesters did defiantly wear face masks, although some were the smaller surgical masks which are more commonly used to protect against illnesses.

Hong Kong’s metro system also stayed shut on Saturday, paralysing transport in the Asian financial hub.

MTR Corp said its network, which carries about five million passengers each day, would remain suspended, while shopping malls and supermarkets also closed, in a new blow for retailers and restaurants in a city on the edge of recession.

“As we are no longer in a position to provide safe and reliable service to passengers in the circumstances, the corporation had no choice but to make the decision to suspend the service of its entire network,” it said in a statement.

Friday’s protests across the Chinese-ruled city erupted hours after its embattled leader, Carrie Lam, invoked colonial-era emergency powers for the first time in more than 50 years to ban the face masks demonstrators use to hide their identities.

The night’s “extreme violence” justified the use of the emergency law, Beijing-backed Lam said in a television address on Saturday.

“The radical behaviour of rioters took Hong Kong through a very dark night, leaving society today half-paralysed,” she said in pre-recorded remarks.

“The extreme violence clearly illustrated that Hong Kong’s public safety is widely endangered. That’s the concrete reason that we had to invoke emergency law yesterday to introduce the anti-mask law.”

The increasingly violent demonstrations that have roiled the city for four months began in opposition to a bill introduced in April that would have allowed extradition to mainland China, but they have since spiralled into a broader pro-democracy movement.

The unrest has plunged Hong Kong into its biggest political crisis since its handover from Britain to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula that granted it autonomy and broad freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland.

China’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office said on Friday the protests were evolving into a revolution backed by foreign forces and could not continue indefinitely.

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