Central govt agencies firmly support HK’s mask ban to end riots

By Chen Qingqing in Hong Kong and Wang Wenwen in Beijing Source:Global Times Published: 2019/10/4 20:14:23

Photo: IC

Central government agencies, major political groups, lawmakers, and many ordinary Hongkongers on Friday voiced their support to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government for enacting the anti-mask law amid spiraling rampage in the city, which will help police handle rioters. 

Hong Kong social unrest cannot continue endlessly. It's time to come up with more effective measures to end the riots, Yang Guang, spokesperson of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, said on Friday, after the new law was enacted, which would take effect on Saturday. 

"We firmly support Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the HKSAR government, Hong Kong police and the judiciary bodies to take all necessary measures to punish all rioters according to law," he said. 

Yang also noted that the biggest danger Hong Kong society is facing is rising violence and erosion of rule by law. "It's legitimate, reasonable and highly necessary to come up with this new law, as many countries and regions have established similar laws. Enforcing such a law won't affect Hong Kong people's freedom and rights prescribed by law, including their freedom of demonstration and assembly," Yang said. 

The Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong also extended support to the anti-mask law. 

The central government has always adhered to the "one country, two systems" principle, a determination that will not change and waver, but we won't tolerate the repeated occurrence of acts that endanger the national sovereignty and security, the office said in a statement on Friday.

For days, rioters wearing masks openly desecrated the Chinese national flag, damaging banners to celebrate National Day and spray-painting graffiti that insults the nation.  "All those acts which violate the Basic Law and Hong Kong regulations and challenge the ‘one country, two systems' principle should be firmly punished in accordance with law," the office added.

The central government is confident that the chief executive and the HKSAR government can make good use of the existing laws in Hong Kong to stop violence and restore order, it said.

The office called on all sectors of society in Hong Kong to recognize the serious harm of the violence and firmly support the regional government and the police in taking all necessary measures to maintain stability in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee released a statement soon after the HKSAR government announced to enact the anti-mask law.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Friday invoked emergency powers to enact a law banning face masks at illegal public assemblies. The law, which takes effect on Saturday, is expected to help quell months of anti-government violence and chaos in Hong Kong.

Any person who violates the law faces up to a year in jail and a fine of HK$25,000, which has exemptions. 

As a major force that loves Hong Kong and the country, the statement said, CPPCC members had already called for implementing the anti-mask law by various means, such as publishing articles on newspapers and voicing our opinions at interviews and meetings, and Friday's move by the HKSAR government is a timely one.

After four months of unrest, Hong Kong has become a city of uncertainty, with most sectors facing sluggishness and society divided. However, a slew of violent activities have shown "signs of terrorism," which is distressing and painful, the statement said. 

"We call on the government to shoulder greater responsibility in cracking down on violence and protecting the safety of residents, and we firmly support the law enforcement by Hong Kong police to restore social order," the statement said.

"Many residents have been looking forward to it as we have seen escalating violence over the past week," Tsuen Wan District Councilor Nixie Lam told the Global Times on Friday. 

The intensity and scale of riots in recent days have been shifting from targeting government buildings to shops and banks, restaurants and shopping malls, which has been spreading to communities. 

Rioters have been targeting MTR stations and throwing Molotov cocktails inside the stations, interfering in railway operations and breaking turnstiles. 

Such rampage has caused delays and inconvenience to ordinary Hong Kong people.

The MTR said 83 stations have been damaged in recent riots, including 800 gates, 500 ticket vending machines and 700 CCTV cameras. 

When radicals wear masks, they could hide their identities and become reckless and fearless, and banning face masks during illegal gatherings is necessary at this critical moment, some Hong Kong government officials said. 

The Hong Kong Federation of Overseas Chinese Associations (HKFOCA) said on Friday afternoon that Western countries, including the US, Canada and France have long passed anti-mask laws, and most of these countries are signatories of the International Bill on Human Rights.

"Therefore, enacting the law does not violate the principles of the International Bill on Human Rights and will not intrude the freedom of demonstrations and assemblies of Hong Kong people," the HKFOCA said.

"Using special means at this critical juncture is a crucial step to stop violence," it said.

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