The Endgame for Hong Kong Protests?
On Friday 5 October 2019, after nearly four months of increasingly violent protests, Hong Kong introduced anti-mask legislation, making it illegal for protesters to wear masks at either legal or illegal assemblies. What was more important than this legislation itself, however, was the fact that the Hong Kong government had invoked a colonial-era ordinance (from 1922) - the Emergency Regulations Ordinance - to bring it into effect. This ordinance allows the Chief Executive of Hong Kong to “make any regulations whatsoever which he may consider desirable in the public interest” and it may be invoked “on occasions of emergency or public danger.” At the press conference announcing the use of the Emergency Ordinance Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam insisted that Hong Kong was “not in a state of emergency”. In practice, however, the use of such a draconian piece of legislation is tantamount to a declaration of a state of emergency, a sense that was only reinforced by the unprecedented closure of the entire Mass Transit Railway (MTR) system the following day.