Wednesday, 16 October, 2019

Protests over mask ban end in vandalism, stand-off

Hong Kong A man wearing a face mask arrives in a police vehicle to the Eastern District Courts on Monday
Deanna Wagner | 09 October, 2019, 04:44

The summer of discontent in Hong Kong is over and a protracted and a potentially far more risky deadlock between the government and protesters has begun.

Speaking at a news conference streamed live from her office by Channel News Asia, Lam claimed that her administration had no plans to use emergency powers and added: "I still strongly feel that we should find the solutions ourselves".

There is also a battle for the moral high ground in this four-month-long crisis. Train services would also end at 8:00pm, more than four hours earlier than normal.

The two were charged with unlawful assembly, which carries up to three years' jail time, and with defying the mask ban, which has a maximum one-year sentence.

"Rioters' level of violence has been escalating, without showing any sign of abating from week to week, and has reached a very critical level", said Kwok Yam-yung, a regional police commander.

Although Lam's statement on Tuesday is the closest she's come in the weeks of protest to a direct warning about the possibility China could use force to restore order, a spokesman for Beijing's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council has been less reticent.

Last weekend, the first since the anti-mask law went into effect at midnight Friday, saw many people wearing masks take to the streets in defiance of the ban, with some protesters trashing subway stations and businesses with purported links to mainland China.

The protests - erupting after pioneer Carrie Lam invoked an emergency legislation to the very first time in over half a century to prohibit face masks - dealt another setback to the Hong Kong market on a weekend generally filled with tourists. "I can not tell you categorically now under what circumstances we will do extra things, including. calling on the central government to help", she said.

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She said authorities would offer support to industries affected by the movement and called for developers and store owners to provide relief measures. "But if the situation becomes so bad, then no options can be ruled out if we want Hong Kong to at least to have another chance".

China's Hong Kong military garrison warned protesters on Sunday they could be arrested for targeting its barracks with lasers - the first direct interaction between the People's Liberation Army and protesters. One week ago, an officer shot and seriously wounded a protester.

Many shops and Chinese banks were also extensively damaged.

US President Donald Trump said on Monday that if anything bad happened in Hong Kong it would be bad for the US-China trade talks.

"I've never said anything like that", she said, pointing out that many in her staff were openly supportive of the democracy protests and free to express their views. Financial markets were closed for the holiday, although a lot of stores and restaurants were available.

The chief executive, meanwhile, rejected criticism made by Hong Kong's last British colonial governor, Chris Patten, about her introduction of the mask ban, saying it was "malicious".

"We now have no plans to invoke the Emergency Regulations Ordinance again to make new laws", she said.

Hong Kong police reaffirmed that they would continue to take resolute enforcement actions to safeguard the city's public safety and bring all lawbreakers to justice. She did not elaborate.