A HONG Kong government ban on wearing face masks at protests is to continue, letting police enforce the decree for another week around keenly contested local elections, after a court suspended its dismissal of the ban.

The High Court ruled on Monday the ban, imposed in October under emergency powers to prevent anti-government protesters from hiding their identity, infringed on fundamental rights more than necessary.

The government appealed for a freeze on the ruling while it appeals to higher courts.

The High Court agreed on Friday to grant a one-week suspension in view of the “highly exceptional circumstances that Hong Kong is currently facing”.

Many Hong Kong protesters have defied the ban. right, and during lunchtime rallies on Friday some chanted: “We have the right to wear masks.”

THREE anti-government protesters have been killed and 25 others injured amid ongoing clashes with Iraqi security forces near a strategic bridge in Baghdad, left.

The latest clashes came just hours after some of the most intense street violence seen in recent days, with 10 protesters killed and another 100 injured.

Security forces used tear gas and live ammunition to repel demonstrators in clashes that lasted well into the night on Thursday.

MEANWHILE battle lines in Israel’s deadlocked political system are expected to be sharpened after Benjamin Netanyahu, above right, was charged in a corruption case.

The serious allegations laid against the prime minister appear to have dashed slim hopes for a unity government after September’s election, paving the way for a repeat vote in March – the third in less than a year.

After charges were announced, Netanyahu lashed out at investigators and vowed to fight the “attempted coup”.

FINALLY the Pacific people of Bougainville will today begin voting in a referendum to decide whether to become the world’s newest nation by gaining independence from Papua New Guinea.

The referendum over two weeks stems from a 2001 peace agreement that ended a civil war which killed 15,000 people in the islands to the east of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) mainland.

It is expected the 250,000 people of Bougainville will vote overwhelming for independence.

The referendum is non-binding and a vote for independence would lead to negotiations between leaders from Bougainville and PNG, with the PNG parliament having the final say.

Gianluca Rampolla, the UN coordinator in PNG, said: “They’ve been waiting 19 years for this historic moment. I think they will be left with joy.”