HONG KONG (AP) — Furiously yelling “Wearing a mask is not a crime,” tens of thousands of masked protesters hit Hong Kong’s rain-drenched streets Sunday in defiance of a new ban on facial coverings. Riot police later swept in with volleys of tear gas and muscular arrests as peaceful rallies again degenerated into widespread violence and chaos in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Instead of deterring rioting and calming anti-government demonstrations that have gripped the international trading hub for four months, the ban that criminalized the wearing of face masks at rallies only redoubled the determination of both peaceful marchers and more radical black-clad youths. The hard-liners again lobbed gasoline bombs and trashed subway stations and China-linked banks in the city.
For the first time in the crisis, men on the roof of one of the Chinese military’s barracks in Hong Kong raised a yellow banner warning protesters they were breaking the law when laser pointers were flashed at the building, according to video broadcast by Hong Kong media.
Police said masked rioters also attacked bystanders, including two men left unconscious after bloody beatings and a woman who took photos of rioting.
A massive peaceful march to the central business district — on streets spray-painted with the word “resist” and hemmed in by high-rises that echoed with protesters’ chants — came as Hong Kong’s High Court rejected a second effort to invalidate the mask ban.
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