Commuters rush to Tiu Keng Ling Station as other stations in the district closed due to damage. Photo: Asia Times

Hong Kong struggled to get back to normal on the first working and school day after the anti-mask law was enacted and after a long weekend when people took to the streets in protest and violence and clashes continued in the city.

The MTR Corp, which runs the city’s train system, resumed services on Tuesday, but 13 stations were closed due to damage from protesters. The subway service will stop at 8pm for maintenance.

Protesters responded to the government’s controversial face mask ban by setting fires and vandalizing MTR stations across the city, forcing the railway company to suspend almost its entire services on Friday evening and Saturday. They opened some stations on Monday, but closed early at 6pm.

As the main public transportation system linking Tseung Kwan O district to other downtown districts, the subway services on Tuesday on the Tseung Kawn O line only operated from Tiu Keng Leng to North Point on Hong Kong Island. Other stations like Tseung Kwan O, Po Lam and Hang Hau were closed.

Commuters living in these districts had to walk all the way to Tiu King Leng station to catch trains. Several hundred people had to line up outside the station during peak hours.

A free MTR shuttle bus service operated between Tiu Keng Leng and other stations in the district, but people complained that the service did not help much as the roads were often clogged due to damaged traffic lights from the protests.

Drivers also complained that no traffic police were on duty to maintain road safety. People drove slowly and coordinated on their own to ensure car and pedestrian safety.

Some who tried to catch buses complained of long delays in the morning. At about 7am, as the rush hour started, many buses that arrived at the interchange station were already full. Passengers complained of long waits as several packed buses went by them.

Five stations on the Ma On Shan line were closed. Residents living in the district had to go to Tai Wai or Tai Po stations to wait for a bus or minibus to go to Kowloon or Hong Kong Island.

The entire Airport Express line was in service on Tuesday. Check-in services at both Hong Kong and Kowloon stations opened.

In other parts of downtown, there were traffic jams and journeys took a bit longer than normal as drivers went slow due to damaged traffic lights. Because the MTR will end train services by 8pm on Tuesday, chaos was expected for people returning home after work.

Meanwhile, about 150 students and alumni of a secondary school in North Point put on face masks and staged a march in support of two students arrested during the protests.

The group marched from Fortress Hill MTR Station to Cheung Chuk Shan College, singing the school anthem and chanting slogans.

The Education Bureau issued a notice to all schools on Friday, saying masks should not be worn inside or outside school except for sickness or religious reasons. The bureau also asked schools to report how many students were wearing face masks on Tuesday, as well as the number of students boycotting classes or who were absent for abnormal reasons. Pupils’ names would not be recorded, the bureau added.

In Kowloon’s Yau Ma Tei, students were seen putting on facemasks when they went to schools. Some said they would wear masks in classrooms as a form of non-cooperation with the anti-mask law.

Students put on face masks and march in North Point. Photo: RTHK

Tai Tak-ching, head of the Wan Chai District Headmasters’ Conference, told a commercial radio program on Monday that schools were not places that were regulated under the Public Order Ordinance, so the anti-mask law should not be applicable inside schools. He added that he would not ask his students why they were wearing masks.

Chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor spoke to the media before the weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday and said the government had no plans to invoke its power under the Emergency Regulations Ordinance again, adding that it takes time to see whether a new law is effective.

Ip Kwok-him, the executive councilor, said during a commercial radio program on Monday that the government would observe whether the anti-mask law would halt the protests.

The veteran pro-Beijing politician said the government would consider all legal means to stop the protests. “The government will not rule out the possibility of placing a ban on the internet,” Ip said.

Protesters in Hong Kong used digital tools to help organize various forms of protest over the past four months. The Telegram messaging app and the Reddit-like online forum LIHKG were widely used.

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