Hong Kong’s anti-mask law is ‘unconstitutional’, high court rules

Hong Kong protesters are demanding democratic reforms and the complete withdraw of a law bill that would allow criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China to stand trial. Protesters are pictured waving their phones in a demonstration on August 28

Hong Kong has been rocked by a series of anti-government protests for more than five months. 

The demonstrations were initially sparked by a proposed law that would allow some criminal suspects to be sent to the mainland China to stand trial.

Hong Kong is ruled under the ‘one country, two system’ policy and has different legal and governing systems to mainland China. 

The principle was agreed upon by China and the UK before the former British colony reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.

However, many residents in the semi-autonomous city feel that their freedoms are eroding due to the tight political grip of Beijing.

The extradition bill was suspended indefinitely by the government in June, but the rallies have morphed into a wider pro-democracy movement that calls for government reforms and universal suffrage, among others.

Protesters are also demanding an independent inquiry into what they view as excessive violence from the police during clashes.

Mass rallies, sometimes attended by as many as two million people, have taken place every weekend since June 9.

Protesters have targeted government buildings, Beijing’s representative office in Hong Kong, shopping centres and international airport to express their demands. 

The demonstrations often start with a peaceful march or sit-in and end up in violent clashes between activists and police. 

A repeated pattern sees activists throwing items such as bricks and petrol bombs at the police and anti-riot officers firing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds.

More than 4,000 people have been detained so far in connection to the unrest. Among them, 39.3 per cent are students.

Beijing has described the situation in Hong Kong the ‘worst crisis’ the city has seen since its handover in 1997. It has also called some activists ‘rioters’ and ‘political terrorists’. 

The city’s chief executive Carrie Lam on September 4 promised to formally withdraw the extradition bill, but the move failed to ease the chaos. 

She is yet to satisfy the protesters’ other demands. 

On October 4, Lam invoked colonial-era emergency powers to ban protesters from wearing masks during rallies in a further bid to quell the unrest. 

The extradition bill was formally withdrawn by the city’s government on October 23. 

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