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Beijing: Hong Kong High Court Has No ‘Authority’ to Call Mask Ban Unconstitutional

© REUTERS / Kim Kyung-HoonProtesters wearing Guy Fawkes masks attend an anti-government demonstration in Hong Kong, China, November 5, 2019
Protesters wearing Guy Fawkes masks attend an anti-government demonstration in Hong Kong, China, November 5, 2019 - Sputnik International
Just hours after Hong Kong’s High Court ruled the city’s face mask ban unconstitutional, a spokesperson for the National People’s Congress (NPC) of China slammed the decision and voiced the disagreements of committee members belonging to the country’s top legislative affairs body.

High Court Judges Anderson Chow and Godfrey Lam announced Monday that recent legislation which prohibited the wearing of face masks during demonstrations and associated gatherings was “incompatible with the Basic Law” - or de facto constitution - of Hong Kong.

According to the justice officials, the prohibition introduced under the Emergency Regulations Ordinance infringed on the fundamental rights of Hongkongers.

However, members of the NPC seem to disagree wholeheartedly that the High Court even had the authority to make such a decision.

“Whether the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region comply with the Basic Law of Hong Kong can only be judged and decided by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress,” Yan Tanwei, spokesperson for the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the NPC, said in a statement obtained by Reuters.

“No other authority has the right to make judgments and decisions,” Yan added.

Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported that Yang Guang, spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, “expressed serious concern” over the potential “negative social impact” of the court’s ruling.

Despite their publicly voiced grievances and comments on Hong Kong’s Basic Law as it relates to the mask ban, the NPC has not moved to take action against the High Court ruling.

Stuart Hargreaves, an associate professor at The Faculty of Law of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, argued that the comments made by the body could be viewed as a “shocking restriction on judicial autonomy” for the special administrative region.

In recent days, the bulk of attention in regard to anti-government demonstrations has been centralized around Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where things recently escalated and anti-riot police threatened to use “live rounds” in retaliation to violent protesters held up in the besieged school.

According to a Tuesday report from Hong Kong police, an estimated “800 people have left the campus … in a peaceful manner” since exits were shuttered and monitored. About 300 of those individuals are said to have been under the age of 18.

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