The Hong Kong Government has implemented an “anti-mask” law, authorised by the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, in attempt to quell ongoing protests.
Protesters will be prohibited from covering their faces completely or partially during protests. Anyone caught wearing a mask at lawful rallies or marches, unlawful or unauthorised assemblies, or riots could be sentenced up to a year in gaol and a fine of HK$25,000 (£2,595).
Anyone who refuses to comply with the police’s request in removing their mask could also be sentenced up to six months imprisonment and a fine of HK$10,000 (£1,038).
The definition of “facial covering” includes not only masks but also paint, according to the H.K.S.A.R. Government.
At the press conference at 3 p.m. (8 a.m. GMT), Chief Executive Carrie Lam said: “The decision to enact an anti-mask law is not an easy one, but it is a necessary decision considering the situation today.”
The Chief Executive added that Hong Kong is “not in a state of emergency” in spite of the enactment of the law.
Raphael Blet, a French journalist based in Hong Kong, said not only is the law not going to improve the situation but to further worsen it.
“To an extent, it sends a signal to the world that the Government has lost: they can’t control anything, so they used the Emergency (Regulations) Ordinance.
The Hang Seng Index has plummeted by almost 500 points when the Government announced the implementation of the “anti-mask” law.
“Investors won’t see any more trust in Hong Kong when the Government can take such measures, when they can implement any law they want,” he said.
“It may give way to other widespread protests and trigger those apolitical citizens to side with their (the protesters’) cause.”
Joshua Rosenzweig, the Head of Amnesty International’s East Asia Regional Office, said the “anti-mask” law is “yet another attempt by the Hong Kong Government to deter protesters”.
“It is thanks to the climate of fear Hong Kong authorities have created that protesters feel the need to wear masks in the first place.
“This ban is especially worrying in a context where protesters fear arbitrary arrest, surveillance, and the indiscriminate use of tear gas and other projectiles.”