Anybody doing ‘Protest tourism to Hong Kong? I’m bored and I’ve got a stockpile of gas masks and umbrellas. Let’s get on a plane was the message from a twitter user in California.
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While the Hong Kong Tourism Board is posting information on where tourists can go and how early they need to be at the airport today the Hong Kong‘s mass transit rail system was suspended and dozens of banks and shopping malls closed after a ban on pro-democracy protesters wearing masks. Only the Airport Express remained open as protesters began fresh demonstrations in the autonomous Chinese territory on Saturday.
Visitors are seen in the city, activities, and accommodations are often available for bargain rates. Visitors are either staying clear away from the protest action or are in the middle of it and part of a thrill some call Protest Tourism.
“I wonder how those Chinese tourists are enjoying their holiday weekend”, questioned a reporter in Hong Kong.
“I’ve never worn masks to marches before because they’re stuffy and I look good/We are deliberately wearing masks today because we can’t accept the ban.”
The city’s international financial center status and its international shipping industry and tourism are the lifeline of its economy, which have been heavily stricken by riots. If Hong Kong loses its international financial center status, the city’s decline is inevitable.
The Hong Kong government announced in a press conference on Friday that it will invoke a colonial-era law, the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, in order to ban face coverings at public gatherings. The law also grants the Hong Kong government sweeping powers relating to detention and to restriction of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
A spokesperson from the HK Government said:
“The extreme violence clearly illustrated that Hong Kong’s public safety is widely endangered. That’s the concrete reason that we had to invoke emergency law yesterday to introduce the anti-mask law.”
#FreedomHK: posts say: We’ve exhausted every available means to express opposition to the government, witnessing our freedom to assembly (& others) eradicated by midnight. Now, who’s convinced HK is still the global city safeguarding basic freedoms and civil liberties?
Joshua Rosenzweig, Head of Amnesty International’s East Asia Regional Office, said:
“This is yet another attempt by the Hong Kong government to deter protesters, who have so far been undaunted by unnecessary and excessive use of force and the threat of prosecution, from exercising their rights.
“It is thanks to the climate of fear Hong Kong authorities have created that protesters feel the need to wear masks in the first place. This ban is especially worrying in a context where protesters fear arbitrary arrest, surveillance and the indiscriminate use of tear gas and other projectiles.
During protests on 1 October 1, a young man was shot in the chest by police and over 1,400 rounds of tear gas and approximately 900 rounds of rubber bullets were fired. Since then protesters have continued to gather daily across Hong Kong.
“Rather than deescalating the situation, Hong Kong’s authorities have chosen to grant themselves sweeping new powers to quash protests, demonstrating the extent of their growing intolerance for freedom of peaceful assembly,” said Joshua Rosenzweig.
“The Hong Kong authorities should not use emergency rules as a smokescreen for further tightening restrictions on protesters. We reiterate our call for the Hong Kong authorities to respect protesters’ rights to peacefully express their opinions and to refrain from using excessive and blanket powers to silence them.”
The new law, which came into effect on 5 October, will ban protesters from covering their faces in full or partially during protests. There will be an exemption for those who cover their faces owing to illness or for religious reasons. Violation of the law will be punishable with up to one year in prison.