Hundreds of high school students across the city put on face masks today in defiance of a controversial ban on wearing face masks in public intended to clamp down on the city’s ongoing anti-government protests.
Students speaking to multiple local outlets said they were wearing the face masks into school as an act of civil disobediance against the regulation — enacted via the city’s draconian emergency powers law — and in response to reports on Monday that the Education Bureau had asked secondary schools to report how many students wore masks to classes today, the first school day since the controversial ban was imposed.
The Education Bureau has maintained that they just wanted the numbers of mask-wearing students — and not their names — in the interest of offering support for schools in relation to any protests or class boycotts. However, some critics, like education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, have argued that asking schools to report how many students wear masks is “unnecessary,” adding that a lot of students wear face masks to school for health reasons and that reporting their numbers would “politicize a public health matter.”
Some students today staged sit-ins outside their schools, like one at the Shun Tak Fraternal Association Leung Kau Kui College in Tuen Mun, where a group of about 50 students sat outside the school amid piles of origami cranes, Apple Daily reports. (A traditional Japanese superstition holds that folding 1,000 of the cranes will grant the folder one wish.)
The newspaper reported another sit-in at the CCC Kei Long College in Yuen Long, which saw one of its 12-year-old students reportedly arrested under the new regulation.
The student in question, surnamed Wong, was filmed on her knees, shaking and crying with her hands raised as she was surrounded by riot police during a protest in Causeway Bay on Sunday.
Ming Pao reported that Wong was taken to the hospital after her arrest, and is reportedly still being detained by the authorities. The school’s principal also visited Wong in hospital, but didn’t to disclose what she was receiving treatment for.
Meanwhile, RTHK reports that more than 150 students and alumni from the Cheung Chuk Shan College in North Point staged a march protesting the mask ban and in support of two the school’s students who were recently arrested.
Stand News also interviewed students at the Tsuen Wan Public Ho Chuen Yiu Memorial College, the school attended by the student shot in the chest on National Day.
One student there, surnamed Chan, told the outlet: “If we don’t come out and fight back, then people will think that we’re accepting what the government is doing.”
Another student, surnamed Cheung, told Stand News that the anti-mask law was “stupid and pointless, and will just make everyone even more angry.”