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HK group seeks ban on wearing masks during protests

Protesters wearing mask

Hong Kong, Oct 4 (UITV/IANS)- Pro-China figures in Hong Kong, including lawmakers and a retired policeman, have formed a group advocating for a ban on people wearing masks at protests.

Speaking to the press on Thursday, the anti-mask law promotional group said invoking the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, a colonial-era law introduced in 1922, to impose a ban on masks at protests would be one measure the authorities could adopt to curb violence at a time when Hong Kong finds itself gripped by increasingly violent street protests.

The ordinance would in theory give Hong Kong's top leader sweeping powers, including authorizing arrests and detentions, censoring the press, changing existing laws and taking control of all transport in the financial hub, Efe news reported.

Since late August, there have been talks of the Hong Kong authorities contemplating reintroducing the tough law as a way to deal with the ongoing anti-government protest movement.

Pro-democracy activists, many of them donning masks to conceal their identities during the street protests, accuse the police of escalating brutality against them.

The police, some of whose personnel wear uniforms with no numbers and helmets with reflective tapes, on the other hand accuse protesters of upping their violent actions with Molotov cocktails and sharpened rods.

On the day the pro-establishment advocacy group met the press, local media quoted sources as saying that Chief Executive Carrie Lam would hold a special meeting with her Cabinet members on Friday to discuss plans to launch the mask ban.

Meanwhile, the 18-year-old Hong Kong student who was shot in the chest by the police during a scuffle three days ago has been charged with rioting and assaulting the police.

Tsang Chi-kin, a high school student, was still in a hospital when the Hong Kong police announced he would face a rioting charge and two counts of attacking the police. His case was heard by a Hong Kong court on Thursday.

Tsang was shot at close range by a police officer during one of the many clashes that ripped through the streets of Hong Kong on Tuesday, when communist China celebrated its 70th birthday.

Separately, the Indonesian consulate-general in Hong Kong reportedly dismissed an earlier report that it would turn to the International Court of Justice over a case in which an Indonesian journalist was allegedly blinded by a police projectile when she covered a protest on Sunday.

Veby Mega Indah, a journalist with Suara Hong Kong -- an Indonesian-language newspaper -- was informed on Wednesday by doctors treating her that the injury to her right pupil would result in permanent blindness, said her lawyer Michael Vidler.

According to a statement issued by Vidler's law firm, Indah was on a footbridge along with a group of journalists in Wan Chai, running a live Facebook report. She was wearing a high-visibility vest, helmet and an eye mask.

Vidler's firm has filed a complaint and demanded details of the identity of the alleged shooter.