Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam earlier invoked the colonial-era Emergency Regulations Ordinance to enact a ban on masks at all rallies and public places.
Breaking the anti-mask law can lead to a maximum fine of HK$25,000 (US$3,188), and one year in prison.
But the new ban has only escalated new violence. It made three straight days of protests and vandalism since Friday (Oct 4) to Sunday (Oct 6).
Thousands of people joined protests on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon on Sunday, many of them in response to online calls for action against the recent face mask ban.
A demonstration supposed to be held at Victoria Park to show support for the wounded Indonesian journalist, while people also planned to march in protest of the anti-mask law. The demonstrations have not received authorization from the police. The protesters dismissed themselves at Victoria Park but joined the march anyway. They started from the SOGO department store in Causeway Bay to Chater Garden in Central.
“The anti-mask law makes people feel they got more repression by tyranny and become more far from democracy,” said a young man who works in a research field, as he passed by Sugar Street on his way to Sogo from Victoria Park.
Protesters occupied all lanes of Hennessey Road and Yee Wo Street under steady rain. They covered themselves with raincoat and umbrella, a symbol of an earlier pro-democracy movement, but were being used on Sunday simply to keep off the rain.
Protesters chanted “Five demands, not one less” and “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong”, as riot police monitored them from overhead walkways and footbridges.
Some of them vandalised Chinese-owned shops and banks which have been particularly targeted by anti-government protesters in recent days.
Demonstrators also set up a barricade and shortly ransacked nearby government offices at Connaught Street at Central. They sprayed the roads and walls with paint, writing provocative sentences against the government in several languages.
In other districts, thousands of people marched along Nathan Road from Tsim Sha Tsui to Kowloon Tong. More clashes broke out with protesters spotted in Yuen Long, Wong Tai Sin, Sheung Shui and Mong Kok.
Violent and chaotic scenes throughout the day had included a taxi driver being seriously beaten in Sham Shui Po after apparently ploughing into a group of protesters.
Police fired tear gas and baton charged protesters in several locations, while some protesters threw bricks and petrol bombs at police, as night began to fall.
The law enforcement said the protesters were participating in illegal assemblies and urged them to stop their action immediately.
Protesters also attacked multiple stations on Sunday afternoon, damaging entry gates, CCTV cameras, setting fires, and threw objects on to the East Rail Line.
Most MTR stations in the protest hotspots – Causeway Bay, Wan Chai, Admiralty, Central, Prince Edward, Mong Kok, Yuen Long and Tuen Mun – remained closed before the day’s demonstrations began, but they were nevertheless a target once again of the protesters’ fury.
Just after midnight on Sunday, the MTR worked out what services will be available for Monday. “The corporation expresses its anger over protesters setting fires at multiple locations on railway premises and damaging railway facilities which seriously undermined railway safety,” said the MTR on a statement.
With the MTR was not available, city bus had the suspension and diversion of at least 120 routes, and more than 80 traffic lights were broken at several districts, Hong Kong became almost paralyzed. Many passengers on Sunday evening took a long walk before able to find the transportation to take them home.
The government, meanwhile, issued a statement condemning the actions of violent “rioters” and accusing them of spreading panic and chaos in society.
The statement said the continued violence demonstrated that Chief Executive Carrie Lam was right to use emergency powers to introduce a new law banning masks at protests.
Photos: Dessy Savitri