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Global Times

First day of mask ban enforcement deters rioters

Global Times

By Chen Qingqing and Bai Yunyi in Hong Kong Published: 2019/10/6 3:24:46

The first day of the anti-mask law coming into force in Hong Kong had a palpable effect as it deterred masked radicals as rioters staged hit-and-run strategies in various districts.

As horrible violent protests take place across the city, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government invoked emergency powers to enact a law banning face masks at illegal public assemblies, aiming to target radicals hiding their identification behind masks to commit crimes.

The anti-mask law came into effect on Saturday, authorizing police to require a person in a public place to remove facial covering to verify his identity.

Still, some black-clad protesters, including secessionist Joshua Wong, wearing masks, began an illegal march around 2 pm from Causeway Bay. However, some were soon dispersed. When some illegal protesters arrived at Central, riot police stopped those wearing masks and asked for more details.

Compared to previous illegal assemblies, many protesters did not wear masks on Saturday, and fled quickly to avoid being confronted by riot police. Although a small number of rioters continued rampaging in areas including Siu Sai Wan, Yau Ma Tei, Mong Kok, Yueng Long and so on by blocking roads, vandalizing shops, but most ran off before police arrived.

The anti-mask law has surely had a deterrent effect on lawbreakers as they remained highly cautious to avoid being captured by camera on Saturday.

Introducing the anti-mask law is to ensure that those who commit violent crimes will face justice, so they can't hide behind their masks to escape their responsibilities, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng said on Saturday.

The new law specifically targets rioters or those who resort to violence and is seen as a necessary move to help end spiraling violence.

Without wearing masks, some radicals were less reckless on Saturday as there were few clashes between rioters and police, the Global Times reporters saw. And the police ended dispersals in different districts in a quick and effective way.

However, the extremely violent situation in Hong Kong has caused panic among the public. On Saturday, local residents lined up in front of ATMs to withdraw cash while some have begun stocking up on food and necessities amid growing concerns over escalating violence, which may paralyze the city again.

As rioters are now targeting mainland bank branches, among the 3,300 ATMs in Hong Kong, over 10 percent have been damaged and could not operate normally, local media reports said, citing the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA).

Still, the HKMA emphasized that the Hong Kong banking system, with ample liquidity and very good asset quality, is robust and sound and is well positioned to withstand any market volatilities.

Carrie Lam, chief executive of HKSAR government, said the level of vandalism by rioters was unprecedented, and the extreme acts of the rioters brought dark hours to Hong Kong Friday night and half paralyzed the city Saturday.

"I appeal to everyone to support the HKSAR government to stop the violence in accordance with the law and condemn violence together, as well as dissociate from the rioters resolutely," she said.

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