Mask ban ruling 'a blow in the face' of Beijing - RTHK
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Mask ban ruling 'a blow in the face' of Beijing

2019-11-21 HKT 23:11
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  • Alan Hoo warns that the High Court's ruling that the anti-mask law is unconstitutional could trigger a constitutional crisis. File photo: RTHK
    Alan Hoo warns that the High Court's ruling that the anti-mask law is unconstitutional could trigger a constitutional crisis. File photo: RTHK
The chairman of the Basic Law Institute, Alan Hoo, warned on Thursday that a High Court ruling that the government’s anti-mask law violates the Basic Law, is “a blow in the face” of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, and could trigger a constitutional crisis unless the decision is overturned on appeal.

The court had ruled on Monday that the mask ban – imposed under a colonial-era emergency law – imposed unnecessary restrictions on fundamental rights.

The NPCSC’s Legislative Affairs Commission then declared that the court had overstepped its authority, and its decision was itself unconstitutional.

It said the NPCSC had in February 23, 1997, already vetted the Emergency Regulations Ordinance as part of a wider review of colonial-era laws, and declared it to be consistent with the Basic Law.

Hoo – who is also a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) – said it’s impossible for a local court to have any authority to overturn a decision taken by the highest legislative authority of the country.

“This judgement stands in contravention to their decision. How do you reconcile that? We are just a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China,” he said. “So this is a blow in the face for the authority of the NPC”.

He said the Basic Law clearly sets out that the NPCSC is the only body that can decide on the constitutionality of any law.

Statutes that are later found to be in contravention of the mini-constitution, he said, can only be amended or struck down by the Standing Committee.

“That [authority] is one that cannot be delegated. Anything else yes not to do with the Basic Law – to do with the Bill of Rights ordinance, to do with fair trial – fine. The courts can function as they do”, Hoo said.

The commission’s comments had caused a stir in the legal community, with many, including the Bar Association, questioning its claim that local courts have no authority to rule on the constitutionality of local laws.