High Court allows seven more days for mask ban

Updated: 2019-11-23 07:34

By Gu Mengyan in Hong Kong(HK Edition)

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Court grants interim suspension, citing 'great public importance'

The Hong Kong High Court on Friday ordered the anti-mask law to remain in force for the next seven days at the request of the government.

The decision came four days after the court declared the mask ban, introduced under the city leader's emergency powers, was unconstitutional.

On Thursday, the Department of Justice pleaded for a suspension of the ruling against the anti-mask law, asking the court to keep the anti-mask law "valid and of legal effect" until a final verdict is reached following the government's appeal to the Court of Appeal.

The court agreed to grant an interim suspension until Nov 29 "in view of the great public importance of the issues raised in this case and the highly exceptional circumstances that Hong Kong is currently facing".

The judges also noted that violent acts by masked protesters have continued unabated, and thus postponing the ruling might not ease the dangers now confronting the public in Hong Kong.

The government argued that people might feel encouraged to join violent protests with their faces covered if they believe they will not be prosecuted -which would have been the case if the ruling had come into force immediately.

After 24 opposition lawmakers applied for a judicial review, the court ruled on Monday that some provisions of the Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation and of the Emergency Regulations Ordinance were inconsistent with the Basic Law, the SAR's constitutional document.

This ruling, which deprives police of the right to ask masked protesters to take off their facial coverings and make arrests in cases of resistance, sparked great concern from the Legislative Affairs Commission of China's top legislature - the National People's Congress Standing Committee.

A spokesman for the commission said the anti-mask law conformed with the Basic Law, and that the power to determine whether a Hong Kong law is unconstitutional resides only with the NPCSC.

High Court allows seven more days for mask ban

Former judge of the SAR's Court of Final Appeal Henry Litton said on Friday he was surprised by the ruling against the anti-mask law and the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, as the emergency law was in place before Hong Kong's return.

"Any place in the world should have special laws which grant the executive body far-reaching powers to deal with critical situations," he added.

The anti-mask law was introduced in early October, after Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance in a bid to help the city's beleaguered police force quell increasingly violent and protracted social unrest. A total of 632 people had been arrested by Nov 14 under the regulation, according to official figures.


(HK Edition 11/23/2019 page2)