Hong Kong University legal scholar Eric Cheung on Thursday warned that any move to invoke emergency laws to tackle the territory's unrest would be very dangerous and could lead to investors rushing to pull their money out of the city.
The Executive Council is expected to hold a meeting on Friday to discuss invoking the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, in order to heed growing calls for a ban on face masks at protests.
But Cheung warned Chief Executive Carrie Lam not to take such a "massive gamble" that could "eternally doom" the city and jeopardise its status as an international financial hub.
"Once you set this precedent, bypassing the legitimate legislative process by making use of this emergency regulation, once you start that, there can be no end to it," he said.
"The investors will become very worried that the law in Hong Kong can be changed to restrict their freedoms overnight. Without any consultations, without any warning, without any debate in the Legislative Council. It is very dangerous."
Cheung said bankers had told him that if the emergency law is invoked, many investors will move their liquid assets out of Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai warned that resorting to using the colonial-era emergency law would be like taking drugs.
Wu said the government would find itself unable to resist making more and more use of the unlimited powers the ordinance provides for, but nothing it did would ease public anger.
The colonial-era Emergency Regulations Ordinance gives the Chief Executive the power to take a wide variety of measures to tackle unrest, from authorising arrests, detentions and deportations, to censoring the press, changing laws or enacting new ones.
Pan-democrats have been warning against invoking the ordinance for several weeks now. But pro-establishment figures have been calling for the move, in particular to ban masks at protests to prevent participants from concealing their identity.
Using emergency law to ban masks 'may doom HK'
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