Hong Kong protests: Law that bans face masks could come into force by midnight, as government considers invoking emergency powers

South China Morning Post

Chief Executive Carrie Lam is expected to announce the implementation of the new legislation this afternoon

South China Morning Post |

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A protester wearing a mask joins others at a rally at Tamar Park on Saturday, September 28, to mark the fifth anniversary of the 2014 Occupy movement.

A new law banning people from wearing masks at public assemblies, legal or illegal, in Hong Kong could come into effect as early as midnight on Friday.

The Executive Council, the city leader’s de facto cabinet, was expected to discuss the matter on Friday morning, and members were also likely to discuss whether to introduce a law allowing police to demand people wearing a mask in public remove it, if officers suspect that person is trying to hide their identity.

Demonstrations to protest anti-mask law end in tear gas

The special meeting came as Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor decides whether to impose the anti-mask law through legislation by invoking a tough, colonial-era emergency law that has not been used in more than half a century.

“Wearing the mask for medical and religious reasons could be exempted. But as long as officers suspect the wearer does so just to hide their identity, police can demand the removal of the mask, or else the person could be subject to arrest and a six-month jail term if convicted,” said a government source.
The source added the law was meant to target people wearing masks who break the law. “It’s not meant to just remove masks from anyone,” they said.
The other provision would see a law banning protesters wearing a mask at any public order event, or risk going to jail for a year.
Lam is expected to announce the implementation of the new law on Friday afternoon, alongside security minister John Lee Ka-chiu.
Approval by the city’s Legislative Council is not required if the ban is imposed by invoking the emergency law, and it could only amend or strike down the law after it has been implemented.