The Hong Kong government has said there are no plans to suspend stock market trading or impose restrictions on cash withdrawals from banks, quelling rumours circulating on social media that emergency law would be invoked amid escalating violence.
“The public should not believe in such kind of rumours as they may create unnecessary chaos or panic,” the government said in a Chinese-language statement on its website on Monday afternoon.
The rumours, circulating widely on Monday via online platforms like WhatsApp, said there were plans to stop trading on the Hong Kong stock exchange on Tuesday and Wednesday, while all offices and schools would also be closed because of the social unrest.
The rumour gathered momentum after a police officer shot a protester as clashes erupted between protesters and police across the city.
The unrest follows the death last Friday of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology student Chow Tsz-lok, days after he fell in a car park near a police dispersal operation in Tseung Kwan O, where tear gas had been fired.
A combination of weak economic data from China, uncertainty over the US-China trade war and violence weighed on the benchmark Hang Seng Index which lost 800 points, or almost 3 per cent, in early afternoon trading.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority also denied rumours, which said the government might restrict cash withdrawals to keep the Hong Kong dollar stable.
“In response to rumours that the HKMA would cap daily cash withdrawal from banks, the HKMA reiterates that the message is totally fake and unfounded. The Hong Kong banking system is robust and sound, with ample liquidity to meet the needs of the public,” the city’s de facto central bank said in a statement on its website.
The protests, however, saw 15 major banks, including Standard Chartered, Bank of East Asia, Hang Seng Bank and those from the mainland such as China Citic Bank and ICBC Asia close scores of branches, according to the Hong Kong Association of Banks.
Most of the branches where operations were suspended were in the protest hotspots of Central, Yuen Long, Mong Kok and also Lan Kwai Fong and Tung Chung.