By Mason Quah
HONG KONG pro-democracy activists have accused pro-Beijing officials of using anti-mask law to silence opposition supporters.
It comes as leading activist Joshua Wong was jailed amid a new wave of arrests targeting the city’s opposition.
Protest leader Wong was detained on Thursday last week for violation of an anti-mask law during a protest in 2019.
The fact this ban on face coverings at demonstrations has not been repealed during the pandemic has led to claims the law is being enforced selectively to criminalise political dissent.
Introduced in October 2019, under the Emergency Regulations Ordinance (ERO), the law on mask wearing applies to both lawful and unlawful assemblies.
Strict enforcement of the law continues despite calls from Hong Kong health experts for masks wearing to be mandatory in the city.
Redaction Politics reached out to Labour Movement Solidarity with Hong Kong, a UK group trying to mobilise solidarity between the Hong Kong protesters and the trade unions and labour party of the UK.
Condemning the arrest of Joshua Wong, a group spokesperson said: “The Hong Kong people led the world in making it aware of the risks of Covid-19.
“In particular the medical workers in the new union the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance (HAEA) with their strike in late January.
“They were informed by some Hong Kong epidemiologists and specialists, some of the best in the world. That forced a change on Carrie Lam and make Hong Kong far safer than most countries further away from the initial break-out.”
The strike being described was organised by Hong Kong medical workers to create pressure for closing Hong Kong’s borders and voice opposition for the half-measure plan of 14 day quarantines being implemented instead.
Speaking on the future implications of Wong’s arrest Labour Movement Solidarity with Hong Kong see dangerous implications both locally and abroad.
Speaking to Redaction Politics the group said: “After her earlier complacency, Carrie Lam now tries to use concerns about Covid-19 to prohibit dissent as she has done with Joshua.
“There are some indications that this may be used in other countries. Of course, demonstrations and protests need to be made as safe as possible. On our protests today, face-masks and social distancing will be mandatory on all attending.”
While China is accused of using anti-mask laws to incriminate protests, there have been fears raised towards other protest movements increasing the transmission rate of Covid-19.
The solidarity campaign has also encountered challenges in gathering support from what they see as an increasingly anti-Chinese political culture.
They added: “Because the left and the labour movement in both countries (the UK and US) has done insufficient work in solidarity in the past, right wing politicians have captured a lot of attention for what they say on China – and that influences people on the streets.
“This is why we try to be clear that Hong Kong’s enemy is not the Chinese people. The greatest potential gain for Hong Kong is growing dissent in China that can weaken Xi and potentially bring democratic rights for the Chinese people.
“Similarly the most reliable ally of Hong Kongers is the workers movement internationally.
“There is a considerable social and economic diversity within all our communities. In both Hong Kong and China there are massive inequalities, as there are in the UK.
“The reason why we want to help the Hong Kong people fight for their democratic rights is not only because we consider them fundamental to human rights but also essential to the fight for economic and social justice.”
The solidarity protests took place yesterday to coincide with Chinese National Day, used previously as a day of Protest in Hong Kong.
In Hong Kong the 71st anniversary of the People’s Republic of China is seen by the presence of thousands of riot police.
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