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HONG KONG

Hong Kong Leader Invokes Emergency Powers to Quell Escalating Violence

HONG KONG – Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam said a ban on facial masks would come into effect on Saturday under the emergency law authorizing the authorities to “take whatever action” in whatever they deem to be in the public interest.
Carrie Lam on Friday invoked colonial-era emergency powers for the first time in more than 50 years in a dramatic move intended to quell escalating violence.
At a press conference, Lam said a ban on facial masks would come into effect on Saturday under the emergency law authorizing authorities to “take any action” in whatever they deem to be in the general interest.
Many demonstrators wear masks to hide their identity, fearing that their employers will be pressured to take action.
It was not known how the government would apply the mask ban in a city where many of its 7.4 million people wear it every day to protect against infection after the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003.
Four months of anti-government protests plunged the former British colony into the biggest political crisis since its transfer to Beijing in 1997.
The violence intensified on Tuesday, marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, when police fired about 1,800 stolen tear gas, 900 rubber bullets and six live ammunition, including one touched a young man of 18 years old.
The student, Tony Tsang, was shot at close range as he fought an officer with what appeared to be a white pole. He was charged with a riot, punishable by up to 10 years, and assaulting a police officer. Tsang is in a stable state in the hospital.
The shooting provoked the anger of the demonstrators who ransacked the city, fired gasoline bombs, blocked roads and fired, while police reacted with tear gas.
Even before the new rules were confirmed, demonstrations against them began to cross the Asian financial centre, gathering hundreds of office workers dressed in masks.
Pro-Peking groups have called for the adoption of legislation banning facial masks during demonstrations.
The protesters are unhappy with what they consider Beijing’s creeping interference in the affairs of their city despite the promise of autonomy in the “one country, two systems” formula that Hong Kong returned to China in 1997.
China rejects accusations of interference and accuses foreign governments, including the United States and Britain, of arousing anti-Chinese sentiment.
What began as an opposition to a draft law on extradition, which could have seen people tried in continental courts, has become an appeal for five requests, including universal suffrage and an investigation into alleged police brutality.
Police fired on protesters Tuesday during a clash against a teenager from high school. Other gatherings are expected later in the evening and over the weekend.
The authorities have already relaxed the use of force by the police, according to documents seen by Reuters.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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