Police say 77 people arrested in Hong Kong for anti-mask law violations

A protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask during a stand-off with police near the Mongkok police station in Hong Kong on Oct 7, 2019.
A protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask during a stand-off with police near the Mongkok police station in Hong Kong on Oct 7, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Hong Kong police said on Tuesday (Oct 8) that 77 people had been arrested for violating an anti-mask law enacted last Saturday under sweeping emergency powers invoked by the city's leader to try to quell often violent anti-government street protests.

The 77 people - 50 men and 27 women - were aged between 12 and 41, police said at a news conference.

Meanwhile, another 14 people have been charged with violating the anti-mask law, broadcaster TVB reported. The six men and eight women faced charges at West Kowloon Court on Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday, two anti-government protesters, an 18-year-old male university student and an unemployed 38-year-old woman, were charged in court with illegally wearing a mask, making them the first to be charged under the new law.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam last Friday invoked a colonial-era emergency law - the Emergency Regulations Ordinance - to ban face masks during protests, which she said would bring back “peace and order” to the city. The new law came into effect early last Saturday,

The anti-mask law bans people from wearing facial coverings that will conceal their identity during demonstrations. Those convicted face up to a year in jail.

Over the weekend, protesters took to the streets with their faces covered, in defiance against the mask ban.

Radical protesters also trashed China-linked shops in the city as well as several metro stations.

Police said at the news conference on Tuesday that since last Friday, more than 200 shops and public facilities have been damaged in the unrest.

A police hotline for people to report suspicious activity or violent incidents has also been relaunched, after an initial attempt to do so on messaging platform WhatsApp last month had to be abandoned, broadcaster RTHK reported.

Police said that the hotline will now be hosted on the mainland's WeChat app or South Korea's Line app.

The hotline was launched on Sept 10 to assist in the prevention and detection of crime by allowing the public to send photos, recordings and videos through WhatsApp.

However, it was suspended after just three days due to a large amount of information that was received as well as "different opinions on the hotline", the police said in a statement on Sept 13.