Police fire tear gas as Hong Kong protesters defy face mask ban in Halloween march

VIDEO: REUTERS
A protester wears a mask of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam's face in Lan Kwai Fong, during a Halloween rally in Hong Kong, on Oct 31, 2019.
A protester wears a mask of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam's face in Lan Kwai Fong, during a Halloween rally in Hong Kong, on Oct 31, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
An anti-government protester wearing a mask shouts to the police during Halloween in Hong Kong, on Oct 31, 2019.
An anti-government protester wearing a mask shouts to the police during Halloween in Hong Kong, on Oct 31, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS
Anti-government protesters wearing costumes march during Halloween in Lan Kwai Fong,Hong Kong, on Oct 31, 2019.
Anti-government protesters wearing costumes march during Halloween in Lan Kwai Fong,Hong Kong, on Oct 31, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS
An anti-government protester wearing a mask attends a march during Halloween in Victoria Park, Hong Kong, on Oct 31, 2019.
An anti-government protester wearing a mask attends a march during Halloween in Victoria Park, Hong Kong, on Oct 31, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG - Police fired tear gas on Thursday (Oct 31) in an effort to disperse crowds as thousands of pro-democracy activists turned out for a Halloween-themed march, wearing face masks of political leaders in defiance of a ban on face masks in the city.

In the Prince Edward district, where crowds gathered to remember victims of alleged police brutality on Aug 31, police fired tear gas as the crowd  began building barricades on roads. 

Heavy police presence was seen all along the 4km march route from Victoria Park to nightlife district of Lan Kwai Fong in Central.

Several roads around Lan Kwai Fong, which hosts an annual Halloween party popular among tourists and the expat community, were closed off by police to prevent chaos.

Thousands were packed onto the steep and narrow D'Aguilar Street and Wellington Street shouting "Hong Kongers, resist!” and other protest slogans. 

The D'Aguilar Street, which is one of the main roads leading to the nightlife district, had been officially closed off to vehicles for Halloween celebrations. Amongst protesters were partygoers in costumes, including as characters from movies and videogames, like Chucky, Mario and Luigi, and several scantily-clad 'cats'. At the periphery, riot police formed cordons to prevent more from joining the crowds.

March organisers had uploaded mask designs with the faces of beleaguered Chief Executive Carrie Lam and other political leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, that protesters were encouraged to print out and wear to the event.

Earlier on Thursday, activists went to court to challenge an emergency law which Mrs Lam evoked early this month to enact the mask ban.

"This is a duel between the rule of law and totalitarianism," lawmaker Dennis Kwok told reporters outside the High Court at the start of a two-day hearing.

 
 
 
 

The sweeping 1922 emergency law was passed in a single day by then colonial master Britain to deal with striking workers. It allows the city's leader to make "any regulations whatsoever" in a time of emergency or public danger.

The law was last used by the British in 1967 to help suppress Maoist-backed leftist riots that raged for nearly a year and killed some 50 people.

Meanwhile, a Hong Kong court on Thursday evening granted an interim injunction banning members of the public from using the Internet to publish information that promotes, encourages or incites violence.

It specially mentions two online platforms popular among protesters - messaging app Telegram and online forum LIHKG.

A formal hearing will be held on Nov 15.