Hong Kong Court Rejects Challenge to Mask Ban— Protesters Return in Masks

  • On Sunday, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal filed by pro-democracy representatives in the Legislative Council.
  • "This is a Henry VIII situation. This is basically I say what is law," Hong Kong lawmaker Dennis Kwok said.
  • Chief Executive Carrie Lam argues prohibition was necessary to stop the widespread violence that "semi-paralyzed" the city.

Tens of thousands of protesters flooded Hong Kong Sunday against a ban on wearing masks in public. Hong Kong’s Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to the ban by pro-democracy legislators. The ban, decreed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, came into effect on Saturday in an apparent bid to halt the protests that have been going on for four months. Instead, the move has sparked even more clashes and destruction over the last two days in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

Anti-mask or anti-masking laws are legislative or penal initiatives that seek to stop individuals from concealing their faces, who do so often to not be identified or out of religious practice. On October 4, 2019, the HKSAR Government invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to implement an anti-mask law in response to ongoing protests.

Today, the protesters, many defiantly wearing masks, returned to the streets, braving the rain, as they shouted, “wearing a mask is not a crime.” On Sunday, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal filed by pro-democracy representatives in the Legislative Council against the decision of the Government of the Chinese Special Administrative Region.

Hong Kong lawmaker Dennis Kwok had earlier compared the regional government’s emergency powers to absolute monarchies. “This is a Henry VIII situation. This is basically I say what is law,” Kwok said at a news conference late Sunday. “And I say when that ceases to be law. That’s not how our Constitution works.” Kwok added, “we say that she doesn’t have such powers, that she cannot avoid [the Legislative Council].”

Another lawmaker, Claudia Mo, called the Emergency Ordinance a “weapon of mass destruction” that could pave the way for more draconian regulations. Many analysts and critics agreed, criticizing the use of this mechanism, a law enacted by the British colonialist rulers in 1922.

Dennis Kwok Wing-hang is a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council representing the Legal functional constituency from 2012 to 2016 and a founding member of Civic Party.

The Chief Executive, on her part, argues that wearing masks allows radical protesters to conceal their identity, and their prohibition was necessary to stop the widespread violence that “semi-paralyzed” the city. Lam is not ruling out new measures if the violence continues.

Many protesters wearing masks said today that the ban, which carries a penalty of up to one year in prison and a fine, restricted their freedom of expression. A teenager was shot in the thigh Friday night by a police officer who alleges he fired in self-defense. That is fueling the fear of more bloody clashes. Many shopping centers and most subway stations, located mainly in the tourist areas where the protests are located, are still closed today.

Hong Kong’s four-month long protests have been its worst crisis since the transfer of its sovereignty from the UK to China on July 1, 1997. Protests have taken place almost daily to denounce the alleged erosion of freedoms, the growing influence of the Chinese government in the affairs of the semi-autonomous region, and for broader democratic reforms.

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Vincent Ferdinand

News reporting is my thing. My view of what is happening in our world is colored by my love of history and how the past influences events taking place in the present time.  I like reading politics and writing articles. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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