Hong Kong Government Bans Face Masks

As the five month long protests in Hong Kong rage on, Carrie Lam, the country’s chief executive, has held a special administrative meeting in order to enact the ‘Prohibition of Masking Regulations’. 

This ordinance, which came into effect on the 5th of October, means that protestors wearing face masks could face imprisonment for up to one year as well as a maximum fine of HK$ 10,000.

Lam claimed that ‘although the ordinance carries the title emergency, Hong Kong is not in a state of emergency, and we are not proclaiming that Hong Kong is entering a state of emergency.’ 

The Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council justified the move by saying that banning face masks will restore order to a city convulsed in chaos. In the last four months alone there have been 2,000 arrests and 1,200 people have been injured as protestors clash with the authorities on the streets of the city.

However, critics of the emergency resolution fear that protestors will no longer be hidden from state cameras and if identified by the authorities could face arrest. 

They argue that this emergency ordinance, the first in more than fifty years, is undemocratic and authoritarian. 

This is the latest conflict related to protests which started in June against an extradition bill which would have allowed Hong Kong citizens to be sent to China for trial. 

In between, the protests have expanded to call for greater autonomy from the Chinese government and an investigation into police brutality.

On the 14th of October, ten days after the face mask ban, protests continued as 130,000 people took to the streets expressing their anger at the emergency ordinance and hoping to catch more attention from people around the world in order to gather international support for their demands.

A student from Hong Kong studying at the University of Leeds had this to say on the situation: 

“Implementing the anti-mask law but still allowing police to smash people’s faces when they are on duty is unfair and absolutely ridiculous.”

 What is clear is that this unprecedented move by Lam has added fuel to the growing flames calling for democracy in Hong Kong and, as the unrest continues to escalate, Beijing grows increasingly uneasy.

Image: Justin Chin/Bloomberg