Masks banned in 15 countries

Top News | Angel Kwan 4 Oct 2019

Canada's anti-mask law targets riots and unlawful assemblies, while France is the strictest as it bans the covering of faces in almost all situations in public places.

Canada's controversial Preventing Persons from Concealing Their Identity during Riots and Unlawful Assemblies Act (Bill C-309) became law in 2013, banning masks or other disguises during a riot "without lawful excuse." Violators face 10 years in jail.

As the first European country to introduce anti-mask legislation, France passed the ban with a clear majority in the lower house of parliament in 2010.

Banned items include the burqa, the full-body covering worn by some Muslim women.

The ban has been viewed by the government and supporters as a necessary step to preserve French culture and fight what they see as separatist tendencies among Muslims.

The law imposes a fine of 150 euros (HK$1,290) and/or a citizenship course as punishment for wearing a face-covering veil.

But French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced plans for a new law to include stopping masks being worn at demonstrations as violent clashes hit Paris for eight weekends earlier this year.

It was thought Philippe and the French government were targeting demonstrators specifically with the new legislation as covering one's face in public has been banned in France since 2011.

The new bill was approved in February, with protesters wearing masks or covering faces during demonstrations facing one year in jail and a 15,000 euro fine.

Similar rules are in force in Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Egypt, Germany and the Netherlands.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Alan Leong Ka-kit said political problems require political solutions, and the execution of anti-mask law overseas face controversies on the definition of "reasonable situations for wearing masks."

"Ukraine intended to pacify the chaos through such legislation and it provoked a revolution," he said.

Eric Cheung Tat-ming, principal law lecturer at the University of Hong Kong, said: "The problem is not whether to discuss or to enact the anti-mask law, the biggest problem is like what people are saying: the chief executive enacts a law under the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, and not through proper legislative procedures.

"It will create a very dangerous precedent."

Cheung said the government can hold back the decision before it is too late as it would put the city in an irreversible situation.

Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said the law would provoke the public to further confront the regime, which was "pouring gasoline on fire."

A rally against the proposed law will take place today at Chater Park starting at 12.30pm.

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