All subway and train services have been suspended in Hong Kong as the semi-autonomous territory braces itself for more protests following a ban on face masks.
A teenager was reportedly shot by police during a night of fresh violence after Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive Carrie Lam invoked emergency powers to ban protesters from covering their faces.
The closure of the entire MTR network, which handles more than four million trips a day and serves the express line to Hong Kong international airport, was a major disruption for the territory which has seen months of anti-government protests.
Queues have also formed outside cash machines after many banks were closed.
The youth-led protests against Chinese rule have plunged the international hub for trade and finance into its deepest crisis since the territory was handed over from the UK to China in 1997.
After widespread overnight arson attacks, looting, fighting with police and beatings, the Hong Kong government appealed for a public shift in attitude against rioting.
John Lee, the government’s security secretary, said by not condemning violence, people are stoking it.
“What is adding oil to violence is people’s support for these acts,” he said. “What is important is that everybody comes out to say: ‘No, society will not accept violence.’”
Ms Lam insisted that criminalising the wearing of masks at rallies and her use of rarely deployed emergency powers to introduce the ban without legislative approval were not a move towards authoritarian rule, and had not been carried out at the behest of the Chinese government.
International observers worried, however, that invoking the Emergency Ordinance which had lain dormant since they were used to quell riots in 1967 could be a harbinger of harsher measures in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, which enjoys greater freedoms than on the mainland.
The mask ban came into effect on Saturday. Two activists filed legal challenges late on Friday on the grounds it would instil fear and curtail the freedom of assembly, but a court denied their request for an injunction.
Ms Lam announced the measure on Friday afternoon as thousands of masked protesters crammed streets in the central business district, with some offices closing early and spilling workers into the demonstrations.
Protesters went on the rampage, setting fires, setting up makeshift roadblocks that backed up traffic and vandalising subway stations, China-linked business and other property.
A police officer fired a single shot from his gun in self-defence after he was attacked by protesters in the northern Yuen Long district, according to police spokeswoman Yolanda Yu.
She said a man was wounded, although a police official later said the victim was 14.
A hospital authority spokesman said the teenager was in serious but not critical condition.
He became the second victim of gunfire in the protests that began in June. An 18-year-old protester was also shot at close range by a riot police officer on Tuesday.