Hong Kong: Thousands of defiant masked protesters streamed into Hong Kong streets on Friday after the city's embattled leader invoked rarely used emergency powers to ban masks at rallies in a hardening of the government's stance after four months of anti-government demonstrations.
Challenging the ban set to take effect Saturday, protesters crammed streets in the central business district and other areas, shouting "Hong Kong people, resist."
Carrie Lam said at an afternoon news conference that the mask ban, imposed under a colonial-era Emergency Ordinance that was last used over half a century ago, targets violent protesters and rioters and "will be an effective deterrent to radical behaviour."
The ban applies to all public gatherings, both unauthorised and those approved by police.
Lam stressed it doesn't mean the semi-autonomous Chinese territory is in a state of emergency. She said she would go to the legislature later to get legal backing for the rule.
"We must save Hong Kong, the present Hong Kong and the future Hong Kong," she said. "We must stop the violence ... we can't just leave the situation to get worse and worse.”
Two activists immediately filed legal challenges in court on grounds that the mask ban will instill fear and curtail freedom of speech and assembly. The High Court was hearing a bid late Friday to halt the ban.