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6 Oct, 2019 12:49

Hong Kong protesters in Halloween masks vandalize shops and paralyze city after court refuses to cancel anti-mask ban

Hong Kong protesters in Halloween masks vandalize shops and paralyze city after court refuses to cancel anti-mask ban

Tens of thousands of protesters with their faces concealed despite a new anti-mask law took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday, after the city’s High Court dismissed a request by opposition lawmakers to abolish the ban.

Activists – who wore Halloween masks, surgical masks, and even facial treatment masks and makeup in defiance of the ban – gathered for new unsanctioned rallies on both sides of Victoria Harbor and in other parts of Hong Kong while the city remained partly on lockdown after violent protests kicked off on Friday.

Protesters continued to build barricades and block roads in pouring rain, forcing police to respond with tear gas. They also vandalized shops and restaurants again, including a Starbucks coffee shop. Branches of the chain have been destroyed in recent weeks after the daughter of the local franchisee’s owner spoke out against the movement at the UN.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam invoked an emergency law dating from the British colonial era to ban facemasks, becoming the first leader to do so since Hong Kong got its independence from Britain and received a special status from Beijing.

Anyone violating the new regulations, which apply to all kinds of face coverings including paint, may be punished by up to a year in prison. The ban was welcomed by government supporters and Beijing.

As the decision was announced on Friday, the streets became the scene of fierce battles between police and protesters. The lawlessness continued well into the weekend after several subway stations and banks were vandalized, resulting in the suspension of the city’s subway network, which normally handles more than four million trips a day. Many malls, shops and restaurants were also closed.

After months of violent protests, Hong Kong residents are becoming more and more furious about unreliable access to basic things, such as subways and shops, even those that are known for always staying open. Some residents claim “it’s quite frustrating” to see them closed and that it “really affects daily life.”

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