World

HK leader won’t rule out asking China for help

Carrie Lam also says it is 'too early' to decide if anti-mask law is effective

HONG KONG: The leader of Hong Kong, Mrs Carrie Lam, yesterday did not rule out asking Beijing for help as the city struggles to deal with months of sometimes violent anti-government protests that are damaging its economy.

Mrs Lam said Beijing wanted Hong Kong to solve its own problems, but under its mini-Constitution, known as the Basic Law, Hong Kong could ask Beijing for help.

"If the situation becomes so bad, then no options could be ruled out, if we want Hong Kong to at least have another chance," Mrs Lam said at a weekly news conference after a long weekend of violence crippled the city.

"But at this moment, I and my team, we are still very committed in making sure we can use our own instruments... to try and restore calm and order in Hong Kong," she said, adding there were no plans to expand emergency laws introduced last Friday. "But I would appeal (to) everyone in society to join hands to achieve this objective."

Mrs Lam said protests were severely damaging Hong Kong's economy, Reuters reported.

"Hong Kong's various sectors will enter a severe winter season," she said.

Hong Kong police said yesterday 77 people had been arrested for violating the anti-mask law.

Since last Friday, more than 200 shops and public utilities have been damaged in the unrest and the police have fired 367 tear gas rounds, said a police spokesman.

China's Oct 1 national day holiday week is normally when Hong Kong is flooded with visitors, but many shops were closed and tourist numbers plummeted, said Mrs Lam, warning that third-quarter economic data would be "very bad".

"For the first six days of October, during the so-called Golden Week holiday, visitors visiting Hong Kong plunged over 50 per cent," she said.

Retail, catering, tourism and hotels had been hit hard, with some 600,000 people affected. The territory is facing its first recession in a decade.

Hong Kong's metro, which carries about five million people daily, was partially operating yesterday and closed at 8pm, five hours earlier than usual.

A tenth of automated teller machines were broken due to vandalism.

Mrs Lam appealed to property developers and landlords to offer relief to retailers whose businesses had been hit.

Meanwhile, she told journalists it was "too early" to say whether the anti-mask law was effective or not, AFP reported.

According to Hospital Authority figures, 10 of the 13 people admitted to hospital over the weekend were in a stable condition yesterday while three had been discharged.

HK students wear masks to school in protest of ban

HONG KONG: Hong Kong students from several secondary schools returned to classes yesterday wearing face masks, the first school day after an anti-mask law came into effect over the weekend.

The students said they were doing so to voice their disagreement with the mask ban, to express solidarity with a fellow student who was shot and injured by police during protest, and to show support for the five demands of the movement, media outlet HK01 reported.

They were also not worried about a move by the Education Bureau to ask schools to report how many of their students wear face masks to schools.

The bureau said last Fridaythat schools are not places for expressing political demands.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam last Friday invoked the emergency powers for the first time in more than 50 years to outlaw face masks during public assemblies, which protesters have used to shield their identities.

The anti-mask law, which came into effect early Saturday, is also applicable in schools and universities.

At Cheung Chuk Shan College in North Point, almost 150 students and alumni wore face masks to school, after a three-day long weekend, broadcaster RTHK reported.

A Secondary Five student from Tsuen Wan Public Ho Chuen Yiu Memorial College told HK01 that the Education Bureau's move was "white terror", a phrase used to describe acts that create a climate of fear.

A Secondary Four student from the same school, who was wearing a mask, said the act was in support of the five demands by protesters as well as a fellow student who was shot by police.

The college's 18-year-old student Tsang Chi Kin was shot by police on Oct 1 during a day of violent protests. Police said he was shot in the shoulder, but various media reports say Tsang was shot in the chest.

The principal of Sheng Kung Hui Tang Shiu Kin Secondary School, Mr Tai Tak Ching, told a Commercial Radio Hong Kong programme that the anti-mask law should not be applicable inside schools as schools are not places regulated under the Public Order Ordinance.

He also said that his school would not be reporting the number of mask-donning students to the Education Bureau. - THE STRAITS TIMES

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