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Wednesday, October 09, 2019, 23:53
Banning face masks helps protect freedom of speech
By Chris Lonsdale
Wednesday, October 09, 2019, 23:53 By Chris Lonsdale

The face mask ban enacted by the Hong Kong government over the weekend has, quite naturally, triggered howls of protest by the faux democrats who have been inciting violence in the territory for many months now.

The crybaby presentation to media by Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Hong Kong’s “revolutionary darling” claiming the face mask ban is another example that Hong Kong is now a totalitarian police state, really makes one want to laugh. Or, perhaps, cry. In complete frustration and incredulity, of course.

Let’s be very clear — the enactment of this regulation is actually a clear example that Hong Kong is still very much operating under the principle of “one country, two systems”. The regulation in question does not come from the Chinese mainland. It is a British regulation from 1922. The essence of the joint declaration between Britain and China was “50 years no change”, which basically means that any laws on the books from before the handover in 1997 are all available for the Hong Kong government to use at any time.

So the Hong Kong government is on solid ground in choosing to use this regulation. And I think we should all be very pleased that this is the only regulation from that time which, so far, is being enacted. If you read British army crowd-control manuals for Hong Kong, there were well-articulated plans to use live fire in order to get the “natives” under control in the case of riots such as Hong Kong is facing today.  

Anybody who truly cares for free speech, freedom of movement, and a rational approach to dealing with Hong Kong’s challenges will disavow such political violence unconditionally

It’s also important to note that the government’s decision to ban face masks in no way makes us different from many other jurisdictions. To the contrary, this decision puts Hong Kong on a par with other jurisdictions in the Western world. Face mask bans have been around for a long time, including in the US and Canada, the supposed role models for our “democratic heroes” here in Hong Kong.

That said, I think that philosophically, there is a bit of a problem with this legislation. I say this in light of a global trend toward a loss of privacy. All around the world, we are faced with more and more overreach from uncontrollable governments that seem hellbent on full-spectrum surveillance of everybody, wherever and whatever they are doing. This includes biometric IDs, facial recognition software, social media tracking in order to issue visas (a new US requirement), and ubiquitous street cameras, to name but a few.

Such overbearing surveillance will most likely destroy spontaneity and creativity around the world and this is a very bad thing, especially since we need such freedom to really deal with the challenges we now face such as global warming and global species extinction. So, in principle, I would push back very hard against any attempt by any government to limit individual freedoms in this way.

However, in the current situation in Hong Kong, we must see the ban on face masks as an attempt to protect free speech and freedom of movement in Hong Kong, not to destroy it. Why do I say this?

As an example, just a couple of days ago, a man was assaulted outside his office simply because he speaks Mandarin and not Cantonese, and comes from the mainland. He was beaten by a masked man, dressed all in black. Before he was beaten, the crowd (many also wearing masks) was chanting, “Go back to the mainland”. 

The irony here really is too thick to bear. I would put money on the fact that the people chanting, “Go back to the mainland” are themselves the direct descendants of people who fled to Hong Kong from Jiangmen, Shantou, Guangzhou and other places north of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border! Remember, many of those people were fleeing the sort of wanton violence now being perpetrated in Hong Kong during the “cultural revolution” (1966-76).

Today, in Hong Kong, we are experiencing political violence similar to that of the brownshirts in Hitler’s Germany, and the Red Guards in the Chinese mainland during the “cultural revolution”! Hong Kong’s mask-wearing “blackshirts” are no different! They are initiating their own political violence against others who don’t share their views, who are different from them, and against the city that gave their families shelter when they most needed it!

These people are responsible for a very serious crime wave in the city. This crime wave consists of destroying Hong Kong’s transport systems, forcing the closure of major shopping malls and supermarkets, beating people of different geographical origins, assaulting people who dare to express a different viewpoint and destroying shops belonging to people or organizations that disagree with the so-called revolutionaries’ political viewpoint.  

Such actions are unacceptable in a free society! And the use of masks to hide behind while refusing to allow others the freedom to express their views in safety can only be viewed as gross cowardice.

Anybody who truly cares for free speech, freedom of movement, and a rational approach to dealing with Hong Kong’s challenges will disavow such political violence unconditionally. And they would be prepared to act peacefully and be comfortable having themselves personally identified with their views and actions. In other words, they would happily take off their masks during these trying times to engage in rational dialogues with their fellow citizens to find a way out of the city’s current unprecedented crisis.  

Anybody who insists on using violence to silence alternative viewpoints will, of course, refuse to take off their masks so they can continue using their personal anonymity to oppress others, commit violent acts, and destroy the very things that make Hong Kong so special.

To such people I would say, may the full force of the Hong Kong anti-mask law descend upon you.

The author is a psychologist, linguist, educator, entrepreneur, dialogue facilitator and corporate adviser with over 30 years’ experience doing business in Asia.

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