Image: TFL

Early this month, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam “invoked emergency powers” to ban the face masks that have been worn by protesters in the nearing-five-months of mass-level demonstrations in the streets of the southern-situated region of China. According to the politician, the purpose of the legally-mandated ban on face coverings – which could bring a penalty of a year imprisonment if violated – is for the purpose of “protecting public safety while trying not to provoke more violence from protesters,” the New York Times has reported.

The ban on face masks has made headlines across the globe, in large part because protestors view it as yet a further erosion of their civil liberties, the issue at the center of the protests, which got their start this summer in opposition to a since-withdrawn extradition bill and more recently, come in furtherance of a larger pro-democracy movement. More than that, the legal prohibition on masks has proven controversial because protestors have said the reason they wear the masks is “out of fear of retribution” from the Chinese government, which has strongly condemned the protests, and “concern that their identities will be shared with China’s massive state security apparatus.”

All the while, another, quieter ban has been underway since this summer. According to reports from China-centric media, as confirmed by Reuters, bulk amounts of black clothing – which has come to serve as the “trademark” uniform for protestors – has been turning up on official lists of items to be blocked from entering into Hong Kong.

A July notice issued by Guangdong-based courier company PHXBUY, as reported by South China Morning Post, revealed that “Mainland Chinese customs [has] required courier companies to halt delivery of a list of products,” including “black t-shirts,” among other things, such as “yellow helmets, yellow umbrellas, flags, flagpoles, poster banners, gloves, and masks.” More recently, EXPRESS, a fellow Guangdong-headquartered exporter, revealed that the Chinese government has banned the shipping of “black shirts and other black clothing” more generally, as well as “helmets, safety vests, and goggles.”

Meanwhile, Beijing-based giant SF Express – an entity that is distinct from the similarly-named courier in Guangdong – recently revealed that “only black clothing is not allowed to be shipped to Hong Kong,” while clothing of other colors is permitted.

Still yet, individual merchants on Shopify have expressed difficulty in shipping dark clothing out of mainland China to Hong Kong. South China Morning Post asserted this week that China’s “official Public Service Announcement to all courier services to stop picking up any clothing items that are considered black or even navy blue for an undisclosed amount of time” has seemingly extended to the e-commerce marketplace site in an effort to cut off the supply to protestors.

As Reuters revealed on Friday, “Hong Kong has been relatively calm for the past week, with only small, often colorful demonstrations.” However, that may change over the weekend, as “Hong Kong pro-democracy campaigners on Friday vowed to stage a major march [in the coming days] despite police ruling the rally illegal, thereby, setting the scene for possibly more unrest in a city battered by months of violent protests.”