Hong Kong joins the ranks of other autocratic nations that have banned face coverings in the name of national security: Sri Lanka, France, the Netherlands, Canada, etc (such bans have also been proposed in the UK, Australia, the USA).
Wearing "any facial covering that is likely to prevent identification" during a protest makes you liable for a USD3,200 fine.
Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam imposed the emergency order this week, and it took effect at 0:00 local time yesterday. In her press conference, Lam cited bans in other countries to defend the legitimacy of the order.
A police inspector told the South China Morning Post that protesters who could show a doctor's note attesting to an infectious disease would be exempted from the rule.
One 16 year old student protester told the SCMP that he would ignore the ban, saying: "Why should we follow the rules when the police – those who actually have power – do not act in accordance to the law?"
Less than a day on, the police have already begun to target mask-wearing protesters for brutal arrests:
1st day of #AntiMaskLaw, cue the abuse of power. Riot police came looking for ppl with masks in Central like a pack of wolves. They found 2, and rushed to push them to the ground. With the new law #HKPolice think the can use force simply bc ppl cover their face. #FreeHongKong pic.twitter.com/ez0RtAZQxD
— Alex Lam 林偉聰 (@lwcalex) October 5, 2019
A third chief inspector, who works in a police station that has been besieged by protesters, agreed that enforcing the new would be hard, but he said it would also deter some protesters from coming out. He said some young people would be reluctant to risk being identified.
"Many of them, especially students, feel empowered and confident when in their masks," he said. "Among those I arrested, many cried and feared the legal consequences once their masks came off in police cars or in stations."
Anti-mask law for protesters would be tough to enforce in streets and courtrooms, Hong Kong police and legal experts say [Joyce Ng, Christy Leung, Jeffie Lam/South China Morning Post]