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High Court in Hon Kong Rules Mask Ban Unconstitutional

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Chief Executive Carrie Lam imposed the ban last month by invoking colonial-era emergency powers for the first time in more than a half century.

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Hong Kong’s controversial ban on wearing masks is unconstitutional a Hong Kong court ruled on Monday. Delivering a fresh legal blow to an administration that is struggling to contain increasingly violent protests.

The High Court ruling was made in response to a challenge filed by Hong Kong‘s opposition lawmakers. Chief Executive Carrie Lam imposed the ban last month by invoking colonial-era emergency powers for the first time in more than a half century.

“The government should fully respect the decision,” Alvin Yeung, an opposition lawmaker, said of the court’s ruling.

Lam’s decision on Oct 4 to invoke the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, which was last used during riots in 1967 during the British colonial era. The ban sparked protesters’ fury and prompted a fresh wave demonstrations. Some protesters have deliberately flouted the ban by wearing masks and costumes at rallies. Hong Kong Police have arrested hundreds over alleged violations of the regulation.

The regulation called for jail sentences of up to one year for violators.

The judges said the measure “exceeds what is reasonably necessary to achieve the aim of law enforcement, investigation and prosecution of violent protesters even in the prevailing turbulent circumstances in Hong Kong. Also that it fails to strike a reasonable balance between the societal benefits promoted and the inroads made into the protected rights.”

They also ruled the ban was disproportionate due to its “remarkable width” and that there “is practically no limit on the circumstances in which the power under that section can be exercised by a police officer.”

News Source: Bloomberg