Traffic in Central ground to a halt this afternoon after hundreds of people occupied major roads in an impromptu protest against reported plans to invoke a controversial and draconian law in order to ban people from wearing masks in public.
Protesters — many of them office workers in the business district — heeded a call online to gather at Chater Garden and march through Central to voice their opposition the implementation of the ban using the city’s sweeping emergency powers law in an apparent bid to clamp down on ongoing anti-government protests.
Hundreds gathered in the park at 12:30pm — most with face masks, and some even wearing the gas masks and goggles favored by protesters — and chanted slogans such as “five demands, not one less,” “wearing a mask is not a crime,” and “no anti-mask law.”
Speaking to Coconuts HK this afternoon, one 65-year-old man surnamed Chow said he wasn’t scared of taking part in today’s protest “because there are so many people out here today, there’s strength in numbers,” but added that he was “really worried for Hong Kong’s future.”
After assembling inside the park, the crowd marched out, occupying the main roads and snaked through buildings before ending up at their destination, the IFC Mall. Some protesters went inside the many malls and shopping arcades along the route to encourage more people to join them, chanting, “If you have a heart, walk with us.”
After passing the IFC Mall, protesters headed back towards Chater Garden, ending up at the intersection of Pedder Street, Chater Road, and De Veoux Road Central.
One participant surnamed Cheng, 59, told Coconuts HK that he came all the way from Tuen Mun to take part in this afternoon’s rally because “it’s the right thing to do.”
“It makes me sad; none of this would have happened if Carrie Lam didn’t introduce that evil law,” he told Coconuts, referring to the now-scrapped extradition bill that kick-started the months of protests in the city.
“All Lam had to do was listen to us, but she didn’t,” he added as the crowd headed back towards Chater Road. “I’m happy so many people are out — the most important thing is for people to keep coming out.”
But the march may have been in vain, with outlets reporting that Lam is due to hold a 3pm press conference where she is expected to formally announce the anti-mask regulation. An alert from Now TV added that the law could come in effect at midnight.
Upon hearing the news, one woman at the protest, who declined to give her name, said, “I don’t normally like to swear, but diu lei lo mo!” — Cantonese for “fuck your mother.”
Another woman who gave her surname as Law asked: “If they’re going to tell people to stop wearing masks, why don’t they tell police to stop wearing masks then?”
Law, 63, told Coconuts HK that she was surprised to see so many people on the streets today and didn’t know about plans to introduce a ban on masks in public places until a few hours ago.
Central was not the only place to see flash anti-mask protests. as of writing, online posts reported similar flash protests taking place in Causeway Bay, Kwun Tong, and Tai Koo.
A small peek at the hundreds gathered in Times Square — one of HK’s poshest malls — for a lunchtime protest against the government’s recent decision to rush through a colonial era anti-mask law. pic.twitter.com/lkzQ7AAd8x
— Laurie Chen (@lauriechenwords) October 4, 2019
At Taikoo now, a masked protest in response to the face mask ban pic.twitter.com/3JFXHSBM2P
— Elizabeth Beattie (@Eliz_Beattie) October 4, 2019
— Harbour Times (@harbourtimes) October 4, 2019