Carrie Lam, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR)’s chief executive, announced on Friday that the Hong Kong SAR government would invoke emergency law to introduce an anti-mask law to prevent violence from further escalating in the city. The ban on face masks would take effect on Saturday.
According to the anti-mask law, anyone who violates the ban could face imprisonment for one year and fine of 25,000 Hong Kong dollars ($3,187). The ban also includes some exemption clauses. Lam reiterated that invoking emergency law doesn’t mean Hong Kong is in a state of emergency, and the SAR government didn’t declare a state of emergency in the city.
We resolutely support the anti-mask law of Hong Kong. It is significant for the current situation and also conducive to safeguard the rule of law in Hong Kong in the long term. We hope the opposition groups in Hong Kong cooperate to enact the anti-mask law and make it a chance to turn the tables amid chaos in the city.
Before the anti-mask law is adopted, some Hong Kong opposition lawmakers said the law would trigger a chilling effect. Thus, nobody would dare to participate in assemblies anymore, while others said the anti-mask law would escalate the protests. The two viewpoints contradict each other and are groundless. What is most important for Hong Kong now is ending violence and restoring the rule of law. In this context, the political interests of different forces are insignificant.
Assemblies approved by police are legitimate in Hong Kong, where people have witnessed repeated protests but no peaceful protester has ever been retaliated. But in the past over 100 days, many radical protesters have concealed themselves under masks and wrought havoc. A vast majority of rioters have had their faces covered with masks. Banning the use of masks has been an urgent step to end violence.
Some Western countries have banned masks at protests. Canada approved a law in 2013 to strictly prohibit protesters from covering their faces and people who violate the law could face imprisonment of up to 10 years. In the US, New York State enacted laws against the use of masks in the 19th century after some extreme groups of white people, who covered their faces with masks, persecuted black people. Some other Western countries have banned covering faces in all public places, which also constrains protesters.
The anti-mask law in Hong Kong is going to put street politics of the city in the spotlight, which is in line with the rule of law. Any opposition to the law is not protecting Hongkongers’ right of peaceful protests, but rather indulging violence and crimes in which rioters cover their faces with masks. Hong Kong shouldn’t mire in such a debate.
The logic of legislation in Hong Kong is very clear and the justification for the anti-mask law is incontrovertible. Opposition groups of Hong Kong should also support the anti-mask law and strive for the future of the city. They must keep a clear head and not be accomplices of rioters.
We hope Western countries that have banned protesters from wearing masks wouldn’t adopt filthy double standards this time to destroy Hong Kong’s anti-mask legislation. Violence must end in Hong Kong. Western forces that oppose Hong Kong’s anti-mask law are malicious.
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