Friday’s protests across the Chinese-ruled city erupted hours after its embattled leader, Carrie Lam, invoked colonial-era emergency powers for the first time in more than 50 years to ban the face masks demonstrators use to hide their identities. The night’s “extreme violence” justified the use of the emergency law, Beijing-backed Lam said in a television address on Saturday.
About 100 demonstrators besieged a branch of the Bank of China (Hong Kong) in the high-end shopping district of Causeway Bay, while across the harbor in the district of Kowloon, protesters smashed the glass store front of a China Life Insurance branch.
Police fired volleys of tear gas to disperse protesters in flashpoint districts such as Causeway Bay, Sha Tin and Wong Tai Sin, underscoring the challenges they face as protests show no sign of letting up.
Hospital authorities said 31 people were hurt in Friday’s protests, two of them seriously.
“The radical behavior of rioters took Hong Kong through a very dark night, leaving society today half-paralyzed,” she said in pre-recorded remarks.
“The extreme violence clearly illustrated that Hong Kong’s public safety is widely endangered. That’s the concrete reason that we had to invoke emergency law yesterday to introduce the anti-mask law.”
But undeterred by the ban and transport shutdown, several hundred pro-democracy protesters, many wearing masks, took to the streets on Saturday, marching through the normally bustling central district of Causeway Bay.
Other groups gathered in Sheung Shui and Tsim Sha Tsui districts as the sun began to set.
“We’re not sure what is going to happen later, but we felt we had to get out and show our basic right to wear a mask,” said one protester, Sue, 22, who wore a black mask and dark glasses to the Causeway Bay march.
Based on Reuters