Govt wants to keep 'unconstitutional' mask law - RTHK
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Govt wants to keep 'unconstitutional' mask law

2019-11-20 HKT 22:30
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  • The government wants to keep enforcing the anti-mask law until the legal dispute comes to a final resolution. File photo: AP
    The government wants to keep enforcing the anti-mask law until the legal dispute comes to a final resolution. File photo: AP
The government is asking the High Court to allow them to continue enforcing a ban on masks even though the court had on Monday ruled the law to be unconstitutional.

The High Court is on Thursday due to hold a hearing on on the government's application for the court to suspend its decision until all appeals against the ruling are exhausted. The Civic Party – being among the applicants of the successful judicial review – learned of the government request through legal papers given to their lawyers.

“They are asking the court to suspend the effect of those orders until the appeal has been disposed of”, Civic Party legislator Dennis Kwok said.

“But as you know, the appeal to the Court of Appeal and possibly to the Court of Final Appeal is going to take some time, so during this time period, they want the anti-mask law to continue to apply…This is clearly in breach of what the court has handed down and we will resist these applications”, he added.

The police had initially said they would stop enforcing the mask ban immediately after the court made their ruling.

Justices Anderson Chow and Godfrey Lam had said the ban on wearing face masks in public places imposed unnecessary restrictions on fundamental rights, and is unconstitutional.

Beijing immediately deemed the ruling itself to be incompatible with the Basic Law, with the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee stressing that only the NPCSC has the authority to decide whether local laws are constitutional.

This triggered alarm across the legal community in Hong Kong, with the Bar Association stating that the commission’s statement was “legally incorrect”, and that local courts have always had the right as prescribed under the Basic Law, of constitutional review.

Former Chief Justice Andrew Li also queried whether the commission truly meant that local courts have no power to adjudicate whether local laws comply with the constitution, saying this would be 'surprising and alarming'.

Maria Tam, a deputy director of the Basic Law Committee, said the commission’s statement does not affect local courts’ ability to undertake judicial reviews, and the mainland body was only clarifying the NPCSC’s unique power to interpret the Basic Law.