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Colonial-era powers invoked in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam invoked colonial-era emergency powers last used more than 50 years ago on Friday, in a dramatic move that enraged protesters who took to the streets of the Chinese-ruled city.

Lam, speaking at a news conference, said a ban on face masks would take effect on Saturday under the emergency laws that allow authorities to “make any regulations whatsoever” in whatever they deem to be in the public interest.

China’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office praised the move in a statement that said the protests were evolving into a “colour revolution”, a term coined to refer to popular uprisings in Ukraine and other former Soviet states that swept away long-standing rulers, with interference from external forces.
The emergency laws allow curfews, censorship of the media, and control of harbours, ports and transport.

Nearly four months of anti-government protests have plunged Hong Kong into its biggest political crisis since its handover from Britain to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula that granted it autonomy and broad freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland.

As darkness fell, defiant demonstrators took to the streets to vent their anger, vandalising what they perceived to be China-friendly businesses and blocking road in the heart of the financial centre. Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters in flashpoint districts across the territory, including Causeway Bay, Sha Tin and Wong Tai Sin.

Shopping malls, banks and shops across Hong Kong island had closed early in anticipation of violence as some protesters burned Chinese flags and chanted “You burn with us”, and “Hong Kongers, revolt”.

What began as opposition to a proposed extradition law, which could have seen people sent for trial in mainland courts, has grown into a broad pro-democracy movement and a serious challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping.