A pair of protesters have become the first to be charged for violating Hong Kong’s new face mask ban following yet another weekend of chaos and demonstrations.
The extremely controversial anti-mask law was announced on Friday afternoon and came into effect at midnight on Saturday. It was supposed to help quell the pro-democracy, anti-government protests that have rocked the former British colony for more than four months.
Instead, it had much the opposite effect.
Tens of thousands of people marched out in the rain over the weekend to protest against the new law, many of them while wearing masks. The scene eventually devolved to familiar exchanges of tear gas and petrol bombs between police and protesters.
An anti-mask law went into effect in Hong Kong today.
So every protester came out wearing a mask.
— Joshua Potash 🆘 (@JoshuaPotash) October 5, 2019
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) October 6, 2019
— Ruptly (@Ruptly) October 6, 2019
Amid the disarray, a male university student and a 38-year-old woman were arrested on Sunday evening before being charged on Monday morning with defying the mask ban by illegally covering their faces.
This marks the first time that the law has been used. It was instituted by Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s administration via colonial-era emergency powers legislation that was last used during the 1967 leftist riots.
Violating the mask ban can result in a one-year prison sentence. The pair were also both charged with unlawful assembly, which can be punished with three years of jail time. They were both released on bail.
The courtroom itself was packed with supporters wearing masks while outside other protesters waited with umbrellas, chanting out “wearing a face mask isn’t a crime!”
two people charged with the new face mask ban law were released on bail today. Supporters packed the room and have no opened umbrellas outside the court chanting “Wearing face mask isn’t a crime
The law is unreasonable” pic.twitter.com/m1niJvjbX6
— Pak Yiu (@pakwayne) October 7, 2019