Emergency ordinance like 'missile launcher'

Local | Maisy Mok 25 Nov 2020

The Emergency Regulations Ordinance is like a missile launcher that allows the government to exercise unrestricted "nuclear power," pro-democracy applicants argued in their judicial review against the anti-mask law heard in the city's highest court yesterday.

Last October, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor invoked colonial-era emergency powers for the first time in more than 50 years to enact a new regulation banning face coverings, which sparked multiple legal challenges.

The Court of Appeal partially overturned a lower court's ruling in April, saying that while the government had the right to ban the wearing of masks at unlawful assemblies, a ban on masks at legal public gatherings was unconstitutional.

Twenty-five pro-democratic figures and the government challenged the Court of Appeal's ruling to the Court of Final Appeal.

The case was heard by a five-judge panel yesterday, including the Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal, Geoffrey Ma Tao-li.

Senior counsel representing the pro-democrats, Gladys Li, described the emergency legislation as a "missile launcher," as it gave the Chief Executive in Council unrestricted lawmaking power and bypassed the legislative process.

Li cited the government's dine-in ban, which left many workers with nowhere to eat lunch.

She said that this "mayhem" might be caused by the lack of public opinion in the lawmaking process, so clear guidelines and restrictions should be established for the Emergency Regulations Ordinance.

Representing the government, senior counsel Benjamin Yu Yuk-hoi argued that whether or not the government sought public input when using the emergency legislation is irrelevant to the appeal.

Another lawyer representing pro-democratic figures, senior counsel Johannes Chan Man-mun, said the public has been wearing masks in public areas for nine months and that health protection is a good reason to wear a mask.

Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma questioned whether the police raising flags and demanding protesters remove their masks is feasible if a peaceful rally turns into an unauthorized protest.

Chan replied that the police should give protesters time to disperse and not arrest passersby and peaceful protesters who have no violent intention.

The hearing continues today.


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