Two protesters have been charged with violating Hong Kong’s new ban that criminalizes the wearing of masks at rallies.
The charges filed Oct. 7 are the first prosecution under the ban that took effect Oct. 5 under sweeping emergency powers to quash rising violence in four months of anti-government protests. But the ban sparked more anger with rallies and violence in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
An 18-year-old student and a 38-year-old unemployed woman were detained early Oct. 5 shortly after the ban took effect and charged Oct. 7 with illegal assembly and for violating the mask ban. They were both released on bail pending trial.
A conviction for violating the mask ban carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and a fine.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has said the ban on masks, which allows radical protesters to conceal their identity, was needed to stop widespread violence that “semi-paralyzed” the city.
Many malls, shops and the entire MTR network of subways and trains shut Oct. 5 following the overnight rampage. About half of the city’s 94 subway stations reopened Oct. 6 but many malls remained shut as thousands of protesters marched with umbrellas, most of them wearing masks in defiance. (AP)