Oct. 7 (UPI) -- A university student and a 38-year-old woman appeared in a Hong Kong court Monday and were among the first people charged with unlawful assembly and defying a law that bars protesters from wearing masks.
Demonstrators lined up outside the courtroom to support defendants, chanting, "wearing a face mask isn't a crime" and "the law is unjust."
The court appearances followed another weekend of protests in the Chinese territory, where leader Carrie Lam has prohibited demonstrators from wearing masks as a measure to keep the often violent rallies from escalating. The ban took effect Saturday.
One government official said there's talk of curbing certain online forums and encrypted messaging apps that protesters are using to rally and organize.
"At this state, the government will consider all legal means to stop the riots," Executive Council member Ip Kwok-him told Commercial Radio. "We would not rule out a ban on the Internet."
The Hong Kong Education Bureau asked secondary schools to report how many students are wearing masks to school. The bureau also requested the number of students boycotting classes or skipping school for unusual reasons.
Teddy Tang, chair of the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools, told RTHK radio the government won't collect students' names.
"I don't believe it is to put pressure on schools ... the Bureau may be hoping to understand more about the emotional status of students," Tang said.
School officials also said the mask ban shouldn't be applicable in schools.
Protesters rallied in several subway stations over the weekend, looted government offices and vandalized businesses with ties to mainland China. The main subway station has been closed since Friday due to protest-related damage.
The protests began in June when the government introduced a bill that would've allowed China to extradite fugitives to the mainland for trial. The proposal was ultimately withdrawn, but demonstrations have continued as activists are now concerned with other issues, including what they say is the use of excessive force by police.