The government’s anti-mask law is unconstitutional, says a Hong Kong court.
Justices Anderson Chow Ka-ming and Godfrey Lam Wan-ho, of the High Court, on Monday ruled in favour of the 25 pan-democrats who challenged two laws that effected the ban against wearing masks since October 5.
The high-profile constitutional challenge centred on the colonial-era Emergency Regulations Ordinance and its derivative, the Prohibition On Face Covering Regulation, introduced by the government on the grounds of “public danger” in a bid to quell the wave of protests sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill.
The controversial move sparked six constitutional challenges, including the present two, testing the ordinance in the courts for the first time since it was enacted in 1922.
Lawyers for the 24 incumbent pan-democratic lawmakers and their former colleague “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung said the ordinance was inconsistent with the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, because it had given the chief executive “virtually unfettered and unrestricted” powers to bypass the legislature to make laws.
They have also argued the regulation had “gone too far” in that it covered a wide range of peaceful conduct unrelated to public order and imposed disproportionate restrictions on fundamental freedoms.
But the government countered there was nothing in the Basic Law that prohibited the Legislative Council from authorising the chief executive to make regulations in times of emergency and public danger, and that the ordinance had repeatedly showed its usefulness.
Benjamin Yu SC, for the government, said the ban was “appropriate and essential” in light of the escalating violence and growing numbers of vulnerable young people taking part in the protests.