Hong Kong protesters mock China leaders, defy face mask ban

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam is seen during a Press Conference in Hong Kong China

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam is seen during a Press Conference in Hong Kong China

Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters donned cartoon character masks and mocked China's leaders while forming human chains in defiance of a ban on face coverings at public assemblies.

Gathering along the city's subway lines Friday night, many protest supporters masqueraded as Winnie the Pooh or Guy Fawkes.

The demonstrations come ahead of a mass rally scheduled for Sunday, where opposition leaders are expected to press their demands.

Chinese internet users have joked that Chinese President Xi Jinping resembles the talking bear, leading the country's censors to scrub online references to the character.

Yu Law, 33, had fashioned a mask in the shape of a camera and was protesting in Tsim Sha Tsui district. Police refused to authorize the march, citing risks to public safety and order, but protesters have previously ignored such rejections.

The autonomous city's government earlier this month invoked colonial-era emergency laws banning face masks at protests. Lam said the restriction on masks, which have been a constant feature at protests, was meant to deter radical behavior. Offenders can be punished by up to a year in prison.

This month, two police shootings that injured teenage protesters, the stabbing of a police officer, and the detonation of a small, remote-controlled bomb close to police officers ratcheted up violence to levels unprecedented since the former British colony reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.

Hong Kong's Chinese-language Ming Pao yesterday quoted the Hong Kong Security Bureau as saying that there is no legal basis for Hong Kong to extradite Chan to Taiwan.

Other protesters wore masks depicting prominent rights activist Jimmy Sham, who was beaten by four men wielding hammers and knives on Wednesday in what democracy campaigners said was an act of intimidation.

James has been criticized for caving to China's communist leaders after he suggested free speech can have consequences, following a now-deleted tweet -by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of the protests- that angered Beijing.

Protesters aimed to form a 40-kilometer (25-mile) human chain tracing the city's subway system in a repeat of a similar protest in August. It's unclear if they achieved that.

Hong Kong's Chief Executive received a letter Friday from Chan Tong-kai, a Hong Kong man who's been accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend during a Valentine's Day trip to Taiwan, saying that he'd chose to surrender himself to Taiwan, according to a statement on the website of Hong Kong's government. The decline contributed to a 7.1 % drop in overall passenger numbers.

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