Hong Kong Face Mask Prohibition: Implications and Facial Recognition

You may wonder why the sudden ban of masks during protests. Is it simply because the situation, “ a real emergency,” as Lam puts it, calls for this measure, or is there more to it than meets the eye? (Image: Li Jing / Nspirement)

On October 4, the Hong Kong government issued the Forbidden Masking Act. It is the latest measure in the government’s effort to suppress the protests in Hong Kong.  When announcing the measure, Carrie Lam described it as “a real emergency” and “a move on which we have discussed and which we consider necessary.”  This comes at a time in which there are also a growing number of accounts of police violence in Hong Kong toward protesters, even those who are peaceful. 

Almost immediately after the announcement of the ban, thousands of protesters, with their faces covered, filled the streets of Hong Kong’s city center. The pro-democratic protesters were more determined than ever that their efforts will succeed in pushing back Beijing’s ever-tightening grip on Hong Kong. 

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A Hong Kong Artists Painting of how HK citizens see mainland China's grip on their sovereignty.
A Hong Kong artist’s rendition about how citizens feel about Beijing’s growing grip on the Hong Kong government, their justice system, and democratic freedoms. (Image: Li Jing / Nspirement)

It may be difficult to know whether the narrative projected by the Hong Kong government is sincere or dictated by Beijing. However, if one compares past narratives that were given by Beijing and the rest of the world as to why the people of Hong Kong are demonstrating, it becomes clear as to where the order originated. 

Hong Kong protesters gather in a park to peacefully protest, demanding the five things.
While only a small minority of protesters seem to fall out of line and act violently, the majority of Hong Kong’s citizens maintain a peaceful demeanor, as seen here. (Image: Li Jing / Nspirement)

Facial recognition

Many people are unaware of the technical advances in biometrical face recognition that have been made in China. Technologies related to surveillance and face recognition are more than just white papers. They are being implemented across China and used to apprehend whoever authorities define as a criminal. The difference in scrutiny standards between Hong Kong and Beijing and how each defines a criminal or terrorist act is a major impetus behind the protests. Here are some recent news reports related to how China may be using its facial recognition software and why this is a major concern for protesters in Hong Kong:

In light of the implications of how Bejing views the protests and reports about them to their people, you can understand why the majority of Chinese citizens denounce the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

A growing number of human rights advocates are worried about the consequences for protesters and the use of facial recognition technology during the protests. (Image via pixabay / CC0 1.0)
A growing number of human rights advocates are worried about the consequences for protesters and the use of facial recognition technology during the protests. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

When played against the backdrop of how Hong Kong authorities are being pressured by Beijing to act against the pro-democracy movement, you can understand the fear of Hongkongers that democratic freedoms are being eroded with every new legislative act passed by the Hong Kong government. 

If you have an opinion, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section below. 

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