Man and woman, arrested on Sunday, appeared in court after arrest for illegally covering their faces

Hong Kong authorities brought the first charges under a new anti-mask law on Monday, as the city slowly recovered from a third day of protests against the ban that turned violent, leaving a trail of destruction and shuttered metro stations.

The government insisted the prohibition unveiled on Friday and brought into effect overnight was needed to end four months of protests, but instead it has only inflamed tensions across the city.

Tens of thousands of people turned out in pouring rain to march peacefully through the centre of Hong Kong, and in several other districts to denounce the law and police violence, most wearing masks in a show of defiance.

In the late afternoon, after police tried to disperse the crowds with tear gas, protesters began throwing stones and molotov cocktails, attacked metro stations and vandalised businesses considered pro-China.

Chinas Hong Kong military garrison also warned protesters on Sunday they could be arrested for targeting its barracks with laser lights, the first direct interaction between the Peoples Liberation Army and demonstrators.

A man and a woman arrested during the evening were charged with illegally covering their faces on Monday morning, the first time the law has been used; the courtroom was filled with many supporters who were wearing face masks themselves.

Parts of the citys metro was shut down on Monday, a public holiday in Hong Kong, after stations were damaged. Protesters are angry both that authorities have started closing parts of the MTR network prevent people gathering for protests or dispersing afterwards, and also that police have attacked protesters in stations.

Authorities said the entire network will shut four hours early at 6pm, to allow for repairs. With more protests planned for the evening, that will also make it harder for demonstrators to cross the city.

The mask ban was brought in under the colonial-era emergency regulations ordinance, which gives Chief Executive Carrie Lam virtually unlimited power.

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Hong Kong protesters defy face mask ban video

The emergency powers have not been used for over half a century, and never since the handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997. Critics say that their use is unjustified, and a first step towards authoritarianism. Lam has hinted that she might use it to roll out harsher measures including a curfew if protests continue.

Hong Kongs last governor Chris Patten joined attacks on Lam for her governments heavy-handed approach, warning that the situation was likely to escalate further unless she started negotiations with protesters.

The way forward is to engage with the demonstrators, particularly the peaceful demonstrators, he told Sky news, highlighting two incidents in which teenagers were seriously injured by armed police.

Before long, unless were very, very lucky, people are going to get killed, people are going to get shot. The idea that with public order policing, you send police forces out with live bullets, with live ammunition, is preposterous,

Adding to concerns about a crack down on civil liberties, the citys education bureau has also told schools they must provide details of how many students boycott classes, wear masks for political reasons, or take part in other protest activities, the South China Morning Post reported.

A Whatsapp message asked for the information by 11am on Tuesday, and also asked principals to take note of any special incidents, and record any students taking abnormal leave. Lawmaker and vice-president of the Professional Teachers Union Ip Kin-yuen attacked the totally unnecessary directive.

What does the bureau really want to achieve by collecting such figures? he told the paper. And what if some of the non-cooperation movements happened solely outside school, should these events be reported as well?

There were also fresh attacks on media freedoms Sunday, with police beating up one reporter and forcing another to remove his gas mask, even though the law protects the right to be masked for professional reasons. Protesters also hit a journalist with a molotov cocktail when trying to target police.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

 

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