Tue, Oct 08, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Internet curbs for HK raised by pro-China politician


Taiwan Solidarity Union members tear up People’s Republic of China national flags at at a rally outside the Office of Hong Kong affairs in Taipei’s Xinyi District yesterday.

Photo: CNA

Hong Kong’s government might curb access to the Internet in a bid to contain months of increasingly violent pro-democracy protests, a senior pro-Beijing politician said yesterday, after an emergency law banning demonstrators wearing masks failed to quell the unrest.

The surge in protests was in response to the Hong Kong government’s announcement on Friday it would invoke colonial-era emergency laws not used for more than 50 years to ban demonstrators from wearing face masks.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) said the ban was needed to contain the unrest.

“The government will not rule out the possibility of placing a ban on the Internet,” said Ip Kwok-him (葉國謙), a member of Lam’s Executive Council.

The Internet has been crucial to protesters, who have no public leaders and use online forums and encrypted messaging apps to mobilize, he said.

However, he said the government recognized any online shutdown could have a knock-on effect.

“I think a condition for implementing the Internet ban would be not to affect any businesses in Hong Kong,” he said.

Protests remained small last night as the territory cleaned up from the weekend.

Pro-democracy activists had called for protests across Hong Kong again last night, starting at 8pm, but they failed to gain significant traction, although gatherings of masked protesters took place at multiple malls yesterday afternoon, with police firing brief volleys of tear gas in the district of Mongkok.

Riot police were on standby in parts of the territory, despite the sparse groups of black-shirted demonstrators milling around areas including the central Causeway Bay shopping district, a focal point for the violence, where some shops had pulled their shutters down early.

The MTR Corp provided only limited train service yesterday, a public holiday, and ended it completely at 6pm, except for an express to the airport, to allow for repairs to vandalized stations.

The Hong Kong Education Bureau yesterday urged students to steer clear of “unlawful activities” and advised them to check traffic conditions before heading to school today.

The bureau also asked principals of secondary schools to report before 11am today how many of their students are wearing masks, are boycotting classes or are absent for other reasons, Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools chair Teddy Tang (鄧振強) told a Hong Kong, Radio Television (RTHK) radio program.

“I don’t believe it is to put pressure on schools… the bureau may be hoping to understand more about the emotional status of students,” the Hong Kong Free Press quoted him as saying.

The bureau was not intending to confirm the figures submitted to it, he said.

“There is growing distrust against the government, against the police,” said Eric Cheung (張達明), a law lecturer at the University of Hong Kong and a member of the committee that elects the chief executive.

Earlier in the day a small crowd gathered outside the Eastern Magistrates’ courthouse where two protesters — an 18-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman detained early on Saturday and charged with unlawful assembly as well as violating the mask ban — faced a hearing.

They were released on bail and ordered to abide by a curfew and not leave Hong Kong, RTHK reported.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg and staff writer

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