Hong Kong authorities to announce face mask ban

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Hong Kong’s government is set to announce a ban on wearing face masks at public gatherings.

Officials plan to use emergency legislation dating from the colonial era to invoke the measure, aimed at quelling anti government protests.

The legislation, called the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, has not been used for over 50 years.

Hong Kong’s protests started in June, sparked by proposals to extradite suspected criminals to mainland China.

Critics feared this could undermine the city’s judicial independence and endanger dissidents.

Report says the face mask ban is expected to be announced on Friday after a meeting of the Executive Council in which emergency laws are likely to be enacted.

The laws would grant Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, the authority to “make any regulations whatsoever which he [or she] may consider desirable in the public interest” in case of “emergency or public danger”.

Last used in 1967 to help stop violent riots in the territory’s trading hub, the laws could also give the government greater authority to make arrests, censor publications and search premises.

In recent weeks, the unrest has taken a more violent turn. An Indonesian journalist has been left permanently blinded in her right eye by a rubber bullet said to have been fired by police on Sunday. On Tuesday, an 18 year old protester was wounded when a police officer fired a live bullet into his chest.

Face masks are often worn by protesters to help prevent them from being identified and arrested by authorities.

In the recent Hong Kong protests, police have used water cannon to spray blue dye on demonstrators to make it easier to identify them later.

Olusola Akintonde