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Hong Kong's Pro-Democracy Movement

China Says Hong Kong Courts Have No Authority Over Face Mask Ban's Constitutionality

2019/11/19 , News
Daphne K. Lee
Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG Images
Daphne K. Lee
Daphne K. Lee is a journalist based in Taipei and an editor for The News Lens International. She's a perpetual traveler who finds story ideas while roaming the planet.

China's top legislature said the Hong Kong High Court had no power to rule the city government's face mask ban unconstitutional.

Zan Tiewei, a spokesperson for the Chinese Legislative Affairs Commission (LAC), said only China's national legislature could determine whether Hong Kong laws comply with the Basic Law of Hong Kong.

“No other authority has to right to make judgments and decisions," Zan said, adding that the Monday court ruling had "severely weakened" the chief executive's governing power.

The Hong Kong High Court ruled on Monday that the anti-mask law "exceeds what is reasonably necessary to achieve the aim of law enforcement, investigation and prosecution violent protesters even in the prevailing turbulent circumstances in Hong Kong.”

Judges also said the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, which was invoked by Chief Executive Carrie Lam to pass the mask ban, granted the city's leader "an unrestricted and unfettered legislative power."

Before Lam proposed the face mask ban, pro-democracy protesters had been wearing tear gas masks to protect themselves and conceal their identities. The anti-mask law gave police officers the power to stop any masked person even outside of protests, but it has not deterred protesters from wearing masks or participating in demonstrations.

Under Article 158 of the Hong Kong Basic Law, however, the city's courts shall follow the interpretation of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC). Since the 1997 handover, the NPCSC has issued five interpretations, with the most recent one intervening to prevent two localist lawmakers from taking up their seats after winning the 2016 local election.

The latest NPCSC statement came amid the ongoing siege of Hong Kong's Polytechnic University, where hundreds of pro-democracy protesters are still trapped inside the university campus. Multiple arrests were made as protesters attempted to leave the campus. Police have called on the remaining protesters to surrender but also threatened that they will face arrest and potential rioting charges, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.


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TNL Editor: Daniel Kao (@thenewslensintl)

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Hong Kong's Pro-Democracy Movement:

At the end of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, Hongkongers promised they will be back. In June 2019, Hong Kong mobilized one-third of the population to protest against the government's extradition bill. The News Lens is covering the on-going movement and rallies in collaboration with our Hong Kong-based team.

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