Invoking an emergency law, Hong Kong administration on Friday banned use of face masks in the region hit by protests, local media reported.
The decision came after authorities failed to identify and trace an injured protestor, who was wearing a mask, while participating in protests on Oct 1.
While announcing the decision, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam insisted that emergency was not declared in the region, according to the South China Morning Post.
Hong Kong is witnessing unrelenting protests for past 17 weeks in a row, after Lam administration tried to legalize extradition to mainland China. But protests forced her to dump the proposed legislation.
After Britain handed over the territory to Beijing in 1998, it is enjoying an autonomous status, with issues of defense and foreign affairs vested with China.
The businesses are badly hit in the region, known for its vibrant economy.
The Emergency Regulations Ordinance (ERO) restricts protesters from covering their faces in full or partially in public.
The ERO also gives the chief executive unlimited power in the event of an emergency.
“It was introduced in 1922 and has not been used since 1967, when riots backed by communists broke out in the region,” Hong Kong Free Press reported.
The protestors in Hong Kong have been wearing surgical masks or head covers, to save themselves from being identified by the police.
According to the ordinance, medical workers and patients have been exempted from the law.
Talking to Anadolu Agency, Hong Kong-based academic Chien-Yu Shih said that the introduction of the new law, has something to do with the police gun shot on Oct. 1.
“The [Carrie Lam] government probably believes that the situation is about to go out of control,” said Chien.
He said that the government had assured that it will not impose something like martial law.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Friday asked Hong Kong chief executive to step down from her position.
“The fact is that she is in a dilemma; she has to obey the masters and, at the same time, has to ask her own conscience. Her conscience says that the people of Hong Kong are right in rejecting the law but, on the other hand, she knows the consequences of rejecting the law,” Bernama news quoted Mahathir, replying to a question at a conference in his country.
“But for the administrator, I think, the best thing to do is resign,” he said.
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