Hong Kong trains suspended ahead of further protests

5 October 2019, 08:13

Protests against the face mask ban raise their hands to symbolise their five demands
Protests against the face mask ban raise their hands to symbolise their five demands. Picture: PA

By Megan White

All train services in Hong Kong have been suspended as the country braces itself for more violent protests.

A 14-year-old was reportedly shot by police on Friday after the territory’s embattled chief executive Carrie Lam invoked emergency powers to ban protesters from covering their faces.

The closure of the entire MTR network, which handles more than four million trips a day, could cause major disruption over the weekend.

Queues have also formed outside cash machines after many banks were closed.

Ms Lam announced the measure on Friday afternoon as thousands of masked protesters crammed streets in the central business district, with some offices closing early and spilling workers into the demonstrations.

Fires were started in the streets as unrest continued
Fires were started in the streets as unrest continued. Picture: PA

Protesters went on the rampage, setting fires, setting up makeshift roadblocks that backed up traffic and vandalising subway stations, China-linked business and other property.

A police officer fired a single shot from his gun in self-defence after he was attacked by protesters in the northern Yuen Long district, according to police spokeswoman Yolanda Yu.

A hospital authority spokesman said the teenager was in serious but not critical condition.

He became the second victim of gunfire in the protests that began in June.

An 18-year-old protester was also shot at close range by a riot police officer on Tuesday.

Riot police spilled onto Hong Kong's streets
Riot police spilled onto Hong Kong's streets. Picture: PA

The youth-led protests against Chinese rule have plunged the international hub for trade and finance into its deepest crisis since Hong Kong was handed over from the UK to China in 1997.

After widespread overnight arson attacks, looting, fighting with police and beatings, the government appealed for a public shift in attitude against rioting.

John Lee, the government's security secretary, said by not condemning violence, people are stoking it.

He said: "What is adding oil to violence is people's support for these acts.

"What is important is that everybody comes out to say: 'No, society will not accept violence.'"

Ms Lam insisted that criminalising the wearing of masks at rallies and her use of rarely deployed emergency powers to introduce the ban without legislative approval were not a move towards authoritarian rule, and had not been carried out at the behest of the Chinese government.

The mask ban came into effect on Saturday.

Two activists filed legal challenges late on Friday on the grounds it would instil fear and curtail the freedom of assembly, but a court denied their request for an injunction.