Hong Kong’s government polices protestors

Photo courtesy of Hf9631, Wikipedia

Protestors in Hong Kong face another setback with a new law that prohibits people from covering their faces.

The Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation, also known as the face-mask ban, allows for citizens of Hong Kong to be charged with a criminal offense, punishable by one year imprisonment and a fine of up to HK $25,000 (US $3,188), should they wear any items that cover up their identification in any way – even if they are participating in lawful meetings or marches. 

Chief executive Carrie Lam claimed that the emergency law was enacted to stop violence and restore order, but it has only brought forth more chaos. The streets of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island have since been overflowing with citizens protesting the ban. 

Locals are not only protesting the ever-growing influence China has been pushing onto Hong Kong, but they are protesting the abuse of the so-called “emergency ordinance” to hold back the citizens’ freedoms.

According to Alan Leong Kah-kit of the New York Times, Carrie Lam violated various legislatures of the One Country, Two Systems principle.

“Article 39 [which] provides that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights will continue to apply in Hong Kong after 1997. [And] Article 73 vests the legislative power of Hong Kong in the Legislative Council. [As well as] Article 8 says that any laws previously in force that contravene the Basic Law cannot be maintained,” Leong said.

“With the mask ban, the government is testing the waters. If no one reacts to this then they can use the emergency ordinance to do anything,” stated Chan, a 61-year-old local resident, to South China Morning Post (SCMP) reporters.

Despite these laws under the One Country, Two Systems principle, protestors have been pushed into yet another corner by this regulation. It may not directly rid citizens of their freedom of speech, but they are forced into a state of vulnerability. They are allowed to protest, if they dare take the chance of baring their identities, risking a possible, and probable, arrest. 

It is incredibly ironic, considering the protestors wear face masks too, one, have a 50-50 chance to avoid arrest by identification, and two, protect them from the tear gas and colored dye thrown by police. 

Lam’s concerns over violence are understandable, especially considering the incident where a taxi driver plowed into a crowd of protestors, only to later be beaten to a pulp by angry masked groups.

Considering they are still under their autonomous rule, these protestors have every right to take to the streets. If anything, the regulation should have focused on the arrest of protestors who act through violence.

Leong writes, “Hong Kong has just moved one step closer to becoming an authoritarian regime, ruled at the executive’s pleasure without institutional or systemic safeguards. We are moving away from the rule of law toward rule by law.”

It is too idealistic to impulsively pass a law and hope it will end all qualms; blood does not stop spilling at the sight of a band-aid. Now, the streets run red with police dye and injustice, and the protestors will stop at nothing to fight for their rights.