Hong Kong protests: Students from five schools, including La Salle and Ying Wa College, hold sit-in against mask ban

South China Morning Post

Young people marked the one-month anniversary of the law and showed support for arrested classmates

South China Morning Post |

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Students hold a sit-in at Ying Wa College, one of several student protests held across the city on Tuesday.

Students marked the one-month anniversary of the mask ban on Tuesday by covering their faces in protest, while others marched in support of two arrested schoolmates.

Young people from at least five schools wore masks in defiance of the legislation, which came into force on October 5 as part of the government’s attempt to quell protests that have raged since June.

About 70 students marched from Kowloon Tong train station to La Salle College on Tuesday morning, against what they called police brutality and inhumane arrests, a day after dozens had staged a sit-in on the campus.

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Two student from the boys school, from Form Five and Form Six, were released on bail on Monday afternoon after they were arrested during Saturday’s protests in Wan Chai on suspicion of unlawful assembly, according to the school’s student concern group.

A Form 6 student from La Salle College, a member of the concern group who gave his surname as Ng, said the school authorities had supported the two arrested students, including through legal assistance.

He added the school did not stop students from holding events to express their political views.

La Salle College students' “Walk with you” protest from Kowloon Tong MTR station to campus in Kowloon Tsai.
Photo: SCMP/ K. Y. Cheng

The mask ban, brought in under colonial-era legislation, forbids anyone from wearing “facial coverings” that are likely to conceal a person’s identity during demonstrations.

The ban applies regardless of the legal status of the assemblies, with those convicted facing up to one year in jail and a HK$25,000 (US$3,187) fine.

A 13-year-old La Salle student, who gave his name as S Chan, said he feared arrest but turning out in masks was the best way to register their anger.

Ying Wa College calls for students to wear V for Vendetta masks at a rally outside school for a peaceful sit-in at Ying Wa College in Cheung Sha Wan.
Photo: SCMP/ Winson Wong

“I’m aware that even simply walking together as a group in masks counts as an illegal assembly,” said Chan, who wore a black mask during the march.

“To be honest, I am afraid of being arrested but this is a rational and peaceful way to fight for my future.”

Form 6 student M Choi said he personally knew the two arrested students and was worried for their future.

“It’s really difficult for upper form students to focus on studies while we’re in an intense political crisis,” he added.

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An alumni in his 30s, surnamed Chow, accused police officers of escalating tensions even before protests had begun, adding: “I think police are cowards for being increasingly rough on young protesters.”

At Ying Wa College and nearby St Margaret’s Co-educational English Secondary and Primary School in Sham Shui Po, more than 100 students wore Guy Fawkes masks and joined a sit-in outside school gates on Tuesday morning in defiance of the mask law.

About 80 students at St Francis Xavier College in Tai Kok Tsui put on various types of masks during Tuesday’s morning assembly, according to its student concern group. The group said “people’s anger towards the government would not weaken because of increased suppression”.

At Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Kap Yan Directors’ College, where six students and alumni were arrested during protests last month, some students turned up masked on Tuesday morning, when term tests were being held.