Hong Kong's ban on masks during protests will raise tensions: MAC
Taipei, Oct. 4 (CNA) Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), which oversees cross-strait affairs, said on Friday that the Hong Kong government's ban against wearing masks during protests is expected to increase confrontation between protesters and the authorities in the territory.
In a statement, the MAC urged the Hong Kong government to adopt measures based on respect for human rights and freedom, saying the ban on masks during protests will only create more conflict and further complicate the situation.
The MAC's response came after Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) announced the ban earlier Friday, citing a provision in the territory's colonial-era law which authorizes the government to issue rules at a time of "a state of serious danger."
Since June, Hong Kong has seen massive demonstrations on the streets amid a public outcry against a controversial extradition bill which would have allowed the territory's government to send criminals to China for trial.
Although Lam announced the withdrawal of the extradition bill in early September, protesters have refused to back down, insisting on their other demands, including universal suffrage to elect the territory's leader instead of the current system in which the chief executive is selected from a pool of candidates pre-screened by Chinese authorities.
The ban on masks during protests is apparently aimed at quelling the chaos.
It is scheduled to become effective at 12:01 a.m. Saturday and protesters who violate the rule will be punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to HK$25,000 (US$3,205).
The MAC said Taiwan's government is aware of worries among the Hong Kong people since such a ban is expected to undermine their safety, hurt their freedom of speech and violate their human rights.
The MAC said the ban will likely also tarnish Hong Kong's international image and shrink its status as a global financial hub.
The MAC urged the Hong Kong government to resort to the core value of human rights and freedom to meet the demands from its people and resolve the current confrontation.
Meanwhile, Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang (黃重諺) said the Presidential Office has paid close attention to the situation in Hong Kong and hoped the Hong Kong government will hold a sincere dialogue with its people to restore calm to the territory.
In a statement, a ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus at the Legislative Yuan urged the Hong Kong government to stop such a ban and not to make another mistake, but take people's demands seriously.
DPP Chairman Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) said the ban represented a setback in democracy, calling for the Hong Kong government to restrain itself.
In the meantime, the presidential election office of opposition party Kuomintang (KMT)'s Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) said the ban is unlikely to solve the problems faced by the Hong Kong government.
Han's office said both police and people in Hong Kong should stay rational and avoid further conflicts so that they can end the current standoff which has continued for about four months.
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