Pro-democracy campaigners in Hong Kong have defied a ban on wearing masks during protests for the second time, as tens of thousands of people again took to the streets, most seemingly with their faces covered.
Sunday’s march, which followed the High Court’s rejection of a second attempt to block the ban, descended into the violence that has become commonplace during the four-month-old protest movement.
Police fired tear gas in several areas as confrontations between officers and demonstrators flared and fires were started.
Some people were arrested for ignoring the ban, a police official said, without providing numbers.
Retiree Patricia Anyeung, who wore a mask while marching with her sister, Rebecca, summed up the activists’ spirit, telling the Press Association: “They can’t arrest us all. There are thousands of us. There is no going back – we are at the point of no return.”
Some protesters spray-painted the word “resist” along a pavement.
“We cannot let them act like emperors,” another protester, Feng Yiucheng, said. “I’m thinking of my [two-year-old] kid’s future. For the sake of our freedom, there’s nothing we’re afraid of.”
Hong Kong TV station RHTK urged “calm and restraint” after one of its reporters was hit by a Molotov cocktail, suffering burns to his face.
The ban appears to be as embattled as chief executive Carrie Lam, who brought it in under emergency powers on Friday.
Activists, many wearing masks, took to the streets in their thousands after the announcement on another night of violence in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Authorities closed the entire subway network after stations were targeted as protesters set fires, attacked Chinese-owned businesses and fought running battles with police.
On Sunday, around half of the stations were open again, but attacks on businesses with links to the mainland continued.
Earlier, a legal challenge against the government’s use of the mask law, which says a facial covering is illegal if it prevents someone at an “unlawful assembly” or “public procession” being identified, brought by pro-democracy politicians, was rejected by the High Court.
The reasons for the decision will be announced on Tuesday.
Pro-democracy opposition politician Claudia Mo, who sits on the Legislative Council, said: “The government is getting more desperate. They’ll do anything to quash the opposition.
“They’re now introducing what I see as a weapon of mass destruction. They simply want to nuke Hong Kong. With this particular law in place, they can do anything. The sweeping powers are simply unlimited.”
The politicians have lost their bid to place an interim injunction on the emergency law but they are still to bring a judicial review, which will be heard later this month.
Initially, the demonstrations were over a now-suspended bill that would have allowed criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China.
But broader concerns about the erosion of freedoms under the “one country, two systems” formula – enacted after Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997 – have now come to the fore.
The protesters want democratic reforms and are calling for Ms Lam, the city’s Beijing-backed leader, to resign.
She has said the ban on masks is needed to stop the violence.