Hong Kong's High Court ruling on anti-mask law abets violence
Azhar Azam
Hong Kong has entered the sixth month of protests. /Photo via CGTN

Hong Kong has entered the sixth month of protests. /Photo via CGTN

Editor's note: Azhar Azam works in a private organization as a market & business analyst and writes about geopolitical issues and regional conflicts. The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

In the six months of protests, violent protesters in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) have disrupted the lives of peaceful citizens, assaulted policemen, vandalized public properties, and put a man ablaze. Their actions have damaged the city and caused casualties amongst its residents.

The tool that's aiding them the most has been the face masks. Violent protesters are widely used this cover-up tool to hide their identities from the police while committing acts of violence in HKSAR.

Following repeated petitions by the HKSAR residents, Chief Executive Carrie Lam issued an "anti-mask law" to "create a deterrent effect against masked, violent protestors and rioters". Beijing had also voiced its support for this prohibition, believing it was indispensable in stopping against violence and restore social order.

But recently, Hong Kong's High Court has ruled that banning protestors from wearing face masks was "incompatible with the Basic Law", and overturned the legislation. The nullification of anti-mask law effectively stemmed Lam administration's effort to fulfill its fundamental administrative responsibility of protecting people from violence and maintaining peace and stability of the city. 

The court's divisive finding invited stern rebuttal from the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the sole legislative body that can make the judgement on whether a law of HKSAR is compatible with the Basic Law.

Violence in Hong Kong reached a dangerous level in the recent days. /Photo via Reuters

Violence in Hong Kong reached a dangerous level in the recent days. /Photo via Reuters

Hong Kong's High Court's ruling would limit Hong Kong authority's ability to curb violence. It provides a legal cover to violent protesters to freely conduct their radical activities without having to disclose their identity to the police. It compromises the security of the city and undermines the Chief Executive's ability to act in times of emergency under the Emergency Regulations Ordinance.

It also sends a wrong message to violent protestors. Since the restoration of peace and ending the violence are the responsibility of Hong Kong authority and the city's police, the ruling would help to fuel radical actions of violent protesters that could lead to an increase of violence. The police would be more exposed to petrol bombs and improvised weapons assaults, and public avenues will also be much more vulnerable to violent activities.

Moreover, this ruling could cause damage to the safety and security of Hong Kong's peaceful residents, who have already started to become the victims of the violent protesters. There are already incidents of people been set on fire or killed by masked protesters hurling hurled hard objects.

The ruling could be boosting the violent protesters to conduct more violent by giving them a sense of being protected by the judiciary. The violent protesters would certainly exploit the court's decision as a justifiable source to expand disorder and disrupt the operation of the city.

If the protestors were peaceful, as they pretend to be, the anti-mask law should have been welcomed. But since the violent protesters are more inclined to cause turmoil in Hong Kong, they have defied the legislation. And unfortunately, the ruling is abetting the violence by terminating the authority's move that aimed at reducing riots and distinguishing offenders.

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