Hong Kong Reopens Subway System, Passes Ban on Masks

  • Some subway stations in central Hong Kong will be closed on Sunday for repairs and the cars will stop running at 21:00, three hours earlier than usual.
  • "The radical behavior of rioters took Hong Kong through a very dark night, leaving society today half-paralyzed," Lam stated.
  • Hundreds of protesters, many of them wearing masks, marched through Causeway Bay shopping district on Saturday.

Hong Kong’s MTR system has reopened its subway, but some stations remain closed due to “serious damage” during unrest on Friday. Most of Hong Kong’s subway system is closed after a number of stations and businesses were attacked when protesters protested the government. Protesters suffered a blow when the Supreme Court refused to overturn a ban on wearing masks.

The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is a major public transport network serving Hong Kong. Operated by the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL), it consists of heavy rail, light rail, and feeder bus service centred on an 11-line rapid transit network serving the urbanised areas of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and the New Territories.

The court said the law prohibiting the wearing of masks does not deny the right to freedom of expression and assembly. Chief Executive Carrie Lam issued a ban on masks using colonial-era emergency powers. On Saturday, she defended her decision, saying that Hong Kong experienced a “very dark night” of “extreme violence.” Some subway stations in central Hong Kong will be closed on Sunday for repairs and the cars will stop running at 21:00, three hours earlier than usual.

Many shops and businesses closed on Saturday reopened on Sunday morning, but more anti-government protests are expected to take place later in the day. The unrest in the former British colony began in June, aroused by proposals regarding the extradition of suspected criminals into mainland China. The extradition bill was later withdrawn but the protests then expanded into pro-democracy and anti-police protests.

“The radical behavior of rioters took Hong Kong through a very dark night, leaving society today half-paralyzed,” Lam stated in a video recorded on Saturday. “The extreme violence clearly illustrated that Hong Kong’s public safety is widely endangered,” she added. “We cannot allow the rioters to continue destroying our precious Hong Kong, Everyone is worried and scared,” she added.

Hundreds of protesters, many of them wearing masks, marched through Causeway Bay shopping district on Saturday. “We are not sure what will happen later but we feel we have to go down the road and show our basic right to wear a mask,” Sue, 22, told Reuters news agency wearing her black mask and dark glasses. “The government needs to learn it can’t force Hong Kong people like this.”

What is the situation like?

For months, clashes between police and activists became increasingly violent. Last Tuesday, police used live ammunition against a protester for the firs time, injuring an 18-year old who allegedly attacked an officer. On Friday, a 14-year-old boy was shot in the leg with a hail of live bullets in Yuen Long, a town west of the city. A plainclothes police officer with an unmarked police car was later brought up by rioters in the same area but officials did not link the two incidents, the South China Morning Post reported.

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.

“We had previously said that this law will not solve anything, but the government insists on pushing it forward. It clearly shows that the government is never bothered to listen to its people,” Lu, 28, told NBC News. “Whether or not to wear a mask, it’s their freedom. If people want to fight against this authoritative regime and to oppose this law, people are welcome to come and take a mask.”

The situation in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a former British colony that was handed over to China in 1997. Hong Kong has a “one-country, two-system” agreement that guarantees certain autonomy, and the people of Hong Kong have certain freedoms, including freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. However, those freedoms— the Basic Law— expire in 2047, and it’s unclear what Hong Kong’s situation would be.

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Joyce Davis

My history goes back to 2002 and I  worked as a reporter, interviewer, news editor, copy editor, managing editor, newsletter founder, almanac profiler, and news radio broadcaster.


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