Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal on Tuesday rejected an application from former lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung to challenge prison rules over haircuts at the city’s highest court. Leung, known for his lengthy hair, said he will directly apply to the Court of Final Appeal.

Leung’s iconic locks were cut short in 2014 whilst serving a jail sentence over a protest. In 2017, he won a judicial review against the rule that insists on short hair for male inmates, but the Correctional Services Department won an appeal last year.

'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung
‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok-hung. File Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

The Court of Appeal on Tuesday ruled that Leung’s case does not involve questions of great general or public importance, even though the haircut requirement is applicable to all prisoners in Hong Kong.

“Though the prison population is generally affected, the distinction in male and female haircut restrictions do not have so great an impact on the inmates so as to give rise to questions of great general or public importance per se,” the judgment written by Court of Appeal judges Johnson Lam, Aarif Barma and Jeremy Poon, read.

They said the restrictions were set “in accordance with conventional standards of appearance of male[s] and female[s] in the [sic] society.”

They ordered Leung to pay the legal costs of the Correctional Services Department, amounting to HK$53,572.

Leung Kwok-hung
Leung Kwok-hung in 2014.

Speaking outside court, Leung said the courts have to protect citizen’s rights under the Basic Law.

“The reasons for rejecting my appeal application given by the three judges are ridiculous,” Leung said. “[The Court of Appeal] has a duty and responsibility to allow a case about sexual discrimination to be heard at the Court of Final Appeal, otherwise Hong Kong’s Basic Law or the Sex Discrimination Ordinance can be thrown into the bin.”

“I have often said this – If you [are allowed to] discriminate against a portion of people, in the end, everyone will face discrimination.”

Leung was disqualified from the legislature by a court over his oath-taking in 2016.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.