Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal has ruled that the city’s anti-mask law will remain unconstitutional for the time being, with the case awaiting its full appeal hearing next month.

Acting Chief Judge of the High Court Jeremy Poon and Vice-President Johnson Lam said that, by refusing the government’s application, they have “in no way determined the [results of the] appeals one way or the other.”

“And our judgment is not and should not be regarded as an encouragement or condonation for any person to cover their face in situations caught by the [anti-mask law],” they wrote.

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File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Their decision means that the police cannot enforce the emergency mask ban until judges hand down a result as part of the appeal in January.

On October 4, Chief Executive Carrie Lam enacted the ban unilaterally by invoking the Emergency Regulations Ordinance. The colonial-era law grants the city’s leader and her council of advisors wide-ranging powers to “make regulations on occasions of emergency or public danger.”

A group of 24 pro-democracy lawmakers filed a judicial review against the anti-mask law and, on November 18, the Court of First Instance ruled that the law was unconstitutional.

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File Photo: Jimmy Lam, Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

The government filed an appeal against the judgment, and made a further application asking the court to suspend the ruling in the interim period before the appeal is heard.

The government had hoped that, despite the unfavourable ruling, they could still enforce the mask ban as a valid law before the appeal is heard.

The Court of First Instance, on November 22, rejected the government’s request to suspend the ruling, but gave a seven-day interim suspension so that the government would have time to ask the Court of Appeal for a different decision. The Court of Final Appeal on November 27 extended the interim suspension to Tuesday, when it refused the government’s application.

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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.