The majority of Hong Kong’s subway stations remained closed on Sunday as the city braced for more protests with activists vowing to hit the streets and opposition lawmakers trying to overturn a face-mask ban.
Pro-democracy lawmakers went to the High Court on Sunday seeking an emergency injunction against the ban, arguing that the emergency powers bypassed the legislature and contravened the city’s mini-constitution, AFP reported. But a senior judge dismissed their injunction demand.
Most major shopping malls and stores remained closed when night fell on Saturday. Many shops, restaurants and all MTR (Mass Transit Railway) stations were shut throughout the day after radical groups showed their anger following the Hong Kong government’s announcement that an emergency law had been invoked to ban face-masks.
On Sunday, the subway operator said 45 stations would open but 48 remained shuttered, many of them in the heart of the city’s main tourist districts as well as those neighborhoods areas hit hardest by the protests and vandalism.
Online forums used by the largely leaderless protest movement to organize were encouraging protesters to hold an unsanctioned rally in Victoria Park later on Sunday. But with most of the stations in that area of the city closed it was unclear if they would be able to muster decent numbers.
The toll from ongoing protests has given an indication of the city’s bleak status. As of 7:30am on Saturday, 31 people had been taken to hospitals, with three in serious condition. Fourteen people were classified as stable, while another 14 had been treated and gone home, the Hospital Authority said.
A 14-year-old boy was in serious condition after reportedly being shot in the leg by an off-duty police officer in Yuen Long on Friday evening. The officer was attacked by a dozen people in black shirts before the boy was shot. He was seen driving a car toward the crowd and began a quarrel.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced on Friday afternoon that a colonial-era emergency law had been invoked to ban protesters from wearing masks in a bid to bring to four months of increasingly violent protest to an end.
But the initial reaction from protesters was anger – and thousands of people wearing masks rallying on the streets and occupying roads in different districts.
A lot of schools have canceled afternoon activities and arranged for students to go home early. Many shops, restaurants and automated teller machines also closed earlier, while people rushed to supermarkets to buy necessities.
Subway services were suspended from Friday evening and failed to resume on Saturday morning. MTR Corp said it had no choice but to suspend all its services as most subway stations had been vandalized in violent protests.
MTR facilities have become targets for attack since August after the train company closed stations near some protest sites and was criticized by demonstrators for helping the police reduce people’s freedom of assembly.
PARKnSHOP, a supermarket chain store fully owned by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, announced on its Facebook page that all is shops would be closed on Saturday to ensure its staff and customers would be safe. The company received praise from a lot of netizens, who said they would continue to support the supermarkets.
Wellcome, owned by Dairy Farm International Holdings subsidiary, and DCH Food, owned by Dah Chong Hong Holdings Ltd, continued to operate on Saturday.
Saint Honore Cake Shop, run by Convenience Retail Asia Ltd under Li & Fung Ltd, also opened as usual. But almost all its cakes and bread had sold out.
Restaurants and shops operated by Maxim’s were vandalized by protesters in black shirts on Friday evening. This appeared to be a response to Annie Wu Suk-ching, daughter of the catering group’s founder, giving a speech opposing the protesters in a United Nations meeting in early September. Maxim’s issued a statement, saying that Wu was not involved in the chain’s operations.
Starbucks outlets, whose Hong Kong franchisee is Maxim’s, were also disrupted. Bank of China branches and ATMs also faced serious vandalism.
Best Mart 360 snack shops were broken into and messed up. Its chairman Lin Tsz-fung is alleged to have connections with Fuijianese gangsters, who attacked people in North Point after protests in August. Lin had denied the accusation.
Hong Kong Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service announced that it would suspend services on Saturday in Kwun Tong Donor Centre and via its blood donation vehicle, which was due to be stationed at Tai Wai.
Teddy Tang Chun-keung, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools, told a radio program on Saturday there was not enough time for schools and students to understand the anti-mask law before it took effect on Saturday. Tang said the law should not be implemented in schools, as they are not public places.
He feared that it would be easy for young people to mistakenly break the anti-mask law because the guidelines were not clear. There was a lack of mutual trust among different parties in Hong Kong, he said, and they should begin a dialogue and seek to rebuild trust with each other.
Meanwhile, the government put out a statement on Saturday morning to clarify the extent of the anti-mask law.
It said: “The new regulation is not in conflict with public health appeals. The regulation will not prohibit the public from wearing masks for health reasons to prevent the infection and transmission of diseases. Wearing masks is one of the measures to prevent respiratory infection.”
Asked whether the government would impose martial law, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah said her department would look into all possible legal tools and provide legal advice to the government.
John Lee Ka-chiu, secretary for security, said the government would not rule out any possibility and was considering all measures.
A commentary published by the People’s Daily on Saturday said the central government supported the Hong Kong government’s decision to impose the anti-mask law. It said it was time to take effective measures to end the chaos in Hong Kong, which must not be endlessly prolonged.
Tanya Chan, a Civic Party lawmaker, said on Friday that the Hong Kong government used the anti-mask law as a “smokescreen” to invoke the Emergency Regulations Ordinance and would continue to extend its power with it.
According to the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, the chief executive of the Executive Council may make any regulations he or she considers necessary in the public interest if there is an emergency or public danger in Hong Kong.
The law has only been invoked once, during the 1967 Hong Kong riots.
It can be used for censorship, the control and suppression of publications, writing, maps, plans, photographs, means of communication, arrests, detention, exclusion and deportation and control of the harbors, ports and waters of Hong Kong, as well as the movements of vessels.