Wearing masks during protests in Hong Kong is to be banned under a colonial-era law last used 52 years ago, according to local media.
The administration of Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam is set to announce plans on Friday to impose emergency regulations after more than four months of anti-government protests, unnamed sources told TVB and the South China Morning Post.
The emergency law, which has not been used in 52 years, means the government can pass laws without first being approved by the city's parliament, the Legislative Council (LegCo).
One of the first laws the government is expected to impose is banning masks at protests.
It is believed disobeying the ban could carry a fine of HK$25,000 (£2,560) or up to a year in jail.
In a city where most people carry a face mask for hygiene reasons following the 2003 SARS outbreak, it is not clear if the ban would cover full-face masks, surgical-type mouth and nose covers or gas masks - or all of them.
One source insisted the new law would be clear, adding: "The law will not impose a blanket ban on wearing masks and there will be exemptions, such as wearing surgical masks for medical reasons."
A pro-government group, including politicians and lawyers, said authorities should use the example of a 2013 Canadian law that means anyone wearing a mask during a riot or unlawful assembly faces up to a decade in jail.
Hong Kong's Emergency Regulations Ordinance (ERO) was introduced by the British in 1922 during strikes by workers demanding higher wages, which immobilised the city.
The last time it was invoked was 1967 when more than 50 people were killed during a year of large-scale riots between leftists and the British-led government.
Ms Lam is expected to hold a special meeting of her cabinet on Friday morning before announcing the ban.
Protesters have not yet paid heed to the government's warning signals, defying protest bans to call for five demands:
- Withdraw the anti-extradition bill (which has happened)
- Ms Lam to step down
- An inquiry into alleged police brutality
- The release of arrested demonstrators
- And greater democratic freedoms
Imposing an ERO would come days after a student became the first protester to be shot with a live round since the protests began in April.
After being shot in the shoulder at short range on Tuesday - China's National Day celebration - police announced Tsang Chi-kin, 18, has been charged with rioting, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
He also faces two counts of attacking two police officers, punishable by up to six months in prison.
More than 1,000 students marched at the Chinese University on Thursday in support of the teenager.
On Sunday an Indonesian journalist, who was wearing hi-vis and "press" markings, was permanently blinded in one eye after being hit by a rubber bullet fired by police.
Since the protests started in June, over a now-shelved extradition bill, more than 1,750 people have been detained.
The protests have since turned into an anti-China campaign as many view Beijing as interfering in Hong Kong's autonomy - granted when the British returned the region to China in 1997.
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