Hong Kong protests flare after face mask ban

Thousands have joined unplanned protests in Hong Kong after the territory’s government announced a face mask ban, which came into effect at midnight (16:00 GMT).

Chief executive Carrie Lam invoked a colonial-era emergency law in a bid to quell months of anti-government unrest.

The ban comes after an escalation of violence during protests on October 1, when an officer shot a demonstrator.

Reports on Friday said a 14-year-old had been shot in the leg.

He has now been transferred to Tuen Mun Hospital, according to the South China Morning Post.

Protesters erupted immediately after the ban was announced.

Many left work early to join the spontaneous demonstrations. Some furious protesters blocked roads, torched Chinese flags and vandalised stations and businesses, as police fired rounds of tear gas.

The territory’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) announced a full service suspension of all trains. A spokesman told the BBC this was due to vandalism and attacks on staff.

Mask-wearing activists had also earlier called on others to wear masks in defiance of the government, which critics fear is becoming increasingly authoritarian.

Ms Lam said she was forced to implement the colonial-era law because violence at the now-weekly protests was “destroying the city”, and she could not allow the situation “to get worse and worse”.

Angry protesters chanted as they marched through the heart of the financial hub. They ripped down a banner marking 70 years of communist rule, setting it alight in front of a cheering crowd.

Hundreds wore masks in defiance of the ban.

Today will be the last time demonstrators can hide their faces legally. Anonymity has become a key part of this movement but many fear that the introduction of this emergency law could lead to further restrictions.

This protest movement began in opposition to an extradition bill now withdrawn from the legislature. The use of the emergency law did not need to go through the legislative body.

Carrie Lam insists that the territory is not in a state of emergency, but the law allows her to take further emergency measures.

Observers say the regulation will be hard to enforce and hugely controversial: critics have warned the mask ban could be the first in a series of “draconian” measures. -BBC

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