Hong Kong faces more protests over face mask ban, as it picks up the pieces after angry weekend demonstrations

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Hong Kong's protests saw the first arrests on Sunday under emergency laws that ban protesters from hiding their faces.
People queue as they wait for the bus, next to a suspended metro station in Tsim Sha Tsui district, in Hong Kong, on Oct 5, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG - Hundreds of protesters in Hong Kong on Monday (Oct 7) gathered in shopping malls in areas such as Yuen Long, Sha Tin, Tseung Kwan O, Tsuen Wan and Taikoo, demanding greater freedom, as the city's metro network remains partially open, and supermarkets have shorter operating hours.

The protesters formed huge circles inside multi-level shopping malls, chanting "fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong", and "I have the right to wear a mask".

Following three days of rampaging by protesters angered by a face mask ban enacted under emergency powers, a substantially muted Hong Kong on Monday attempted to pick up the pieces and resume a sense of normalcy.

Two anti-government protesters, the first people arrested after the anti-mask law kicked in, were charged in court on Monday with illegally wearing a mask which carries a jail term of up to one year.

The suspects, an 18-year-old male university student and an unemployed 38-year-old woman, were also charged with unlawful assembly which comes with a maximum sentence of three years behind bars. Both were released on bail.

It is the Chung Yeung Festival public holiday in the city, so schools, workplaces and some smaller shops are closed.

Rail operator MTR Corporation, whose stations have been trashed and torched by protesters, said only 39 of its 93 stations have been re-opened, citing the need for repair work to continue.

Trains are also running more slowly, at eight-minute intervals, and will shut early, at 6pm, to allow repair works to continue.

The Tsuen Wan, Ma On Shan and Disneyland Resort Lines have all been suspended. The Airport Express, which connects the city centre to the aviation hub, will stop at only one station in Central business district.

Following a weekend where two of the city's biggest supermarket chains - ParknShop and Wellcome - shut early, triggering a wave of panic buying, supermarkets have resumed a sense of normalcy.

At Wellcomes in Tin Hau, Causeway Bay and Wan Chai on Monday morning, there were queues during the morning peak hour, which staff say is normal.

Some shelves seemed thinly stocked, but it was a stark contrast to the empty shelves seen on social media over the weekend.

Most street markets are operating as usual.

"My friends told me to rush to the supermarket last weekend too but what is the point? It's not like we're facing a typhoon or anything," said a Tin Hau resident who wanted to be known only as Madam Leung.

Shopping malls, including Sogo which had been the starting point of marches over the weekend, gradually reopened in the day.

However, at least two supermarket chains - Yata and Wellcome - and 7-11 convenience stores have announced they will shutter earlier on Monday to allow their staff to get home more easily in anticipation of protests recurring later. Jockey Club outlets will also stop taking bets at 6pm, ahead of its usual deadline of 11pm.

Workers were seen making repairs at Chinese state-owned banks, which had been targeted by protesters, but several Bank of China ATM machines in Wan Chai remained out of order, white lights briefly flickering through broken black screens.

Violent protests erupted across the city on Friday night after Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam invoked a colonial-era emergency powers - the Emergency Regulations Ordinance - to ban face masks at protests.

The "extreme violence" from the night before justified the use of the law, said Mrs Lam in a recorded video address last Saturday surrounded by her de facto Cabinet.

The former British colony has been roiled by increasingly violent protests for four months, which began in opposition to a Bill that would have allowed extradition to mainland China but have spiralled into a broader pro-democracy movement.

Chris Patten, the final Governor of Hong Kong, told Sky News: "Before long, unless we are very, very lucky, people are going to get killed, people are going to be shot."

"The idea that with public order policing you send police forces out with live ammunition is preposterous."

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