Hong Kong bans face masks after months of violent protests

David Harding
Contributor
A masked anti-government protester in Hong Kong (REUTERS/Jorge Silva)

Hong Kong has banned face masks after months of violent protests in the former British colony.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the ban this morning and said the ban would come into effect on Saturday.

It comes in the wake of the latest riots which saw violence across Hong Kong on October 1, the 70th anniversary of Communist Party rule in China.

Anti-government office workers wearing masks on Friday (REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

Many of the protestors throughout the long campaign against the authorities wear face masks.

Lam said the violence was “destroying the city” and she could not allow “the situation to get worse and worse."

She used legislation drafted by the British when it ruled Hong Kong to bring the face mask ban in to force.

The move follows widespread protests (Getty Images)
A pro-democracy protester in a mask earlier this month (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

The Emergency Regulations Ordinance, which dates back to 1922, has allowed the ban to come in and has not been used since 1967.

Hong Kong was a former British colony, which was handed back to China in 1997.

A masked anti-government protester (REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

The latest protests, which saw one person shot in the chest by riot police, came after a number of violent clashes between demonstrators and the authorities since June.

Authorities said the 18-year-old, who was arrested after being shot, was in a stable condition in hospital.

The protests were sparked by the proposed introduction of an extradition bill which would allow suspected criminals to be taken from Hong Kong to mainland China.

The extradition bill has since been cancelled, but the demonstrations have now widened into pro-democracy demonstrations.

The law was announced by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)
Riot police fire on protestors (Getty)

Explaining the ban, Secretary for Security John Lee said it would apply for approved rallies and marches, as well as in unlawful assemblies and riots.

However, the authorities will allow for exemptions for people wearing masks for health reasons, or if required by their profession.

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Ms Lam stressed the new regulation did not mean that Hong Kong was in a state of emergency.

But she said the city was "in a state of serious public danger".

Protestors have already said they will defy the ban.

Riot police patrol in front of a wall with the LIHKG Pig mascot (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

On Friday, Masked pro-democracy protesters marched in central Hong Kong ahead of the ban.

One protester told reporters: “Will they arrest 100,000 people on the street? The government is trying to intimidate us but at this moment, I don’t think the people will be scared.”

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