A Hong Kong man has filed an application for judicial review against the government’s Covid-19 vaccine pass, claiming that the policy infringes on personal freedoms and is unconstitutional.

In the application for judicial review submitted to the High Court on Tuesday, a copy of which was seen by HKFP, Chung Sung-wong argued that the vaccine pass was akin to giving “special treatment” to those inoculated against the virus.

High Court
High Court. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Chung said neither he nor his family members had received the Covid-19 jab, and that they often visit markets and shopping malls. To bar them and other unvaccinated people from entering these premises, he argued, would amount to discrimination.

“The government is responsible for ensuring a healthy population, but does not have the power to force citizens to accept specific treatments or anti-virus medicine,” Chung wrote.

covid-19 coronavirus vaccine
Covid-19 vaccine. Photo: GovHK.

According to the Hong Kong Judiciary, an application for judicial review brings into question “the lawfulness of an enactment, or of a decision, action or failure to act in relation to the exercise of a public function.”

Chung added links to Buddhist scriptures and literature to the appendix of his application, saying that the government should call on the public to fast, practice acts of kindness and adopt a vegetarian diet.

Pass meant ‘to help encourage’ jabs

The application for judicial review comes as Hong Kong’s Covid-19 vaccine pass is set to be enforced next Thursday. Under the new policy, those who are unvaccinated will be barred from entering a list of designated venues including shopping malls, supermarkets, restaurants, gyms and places of worship.

“The vaccine pass is to help encourage more people to be vaccinated because the effect of vaccine pass is [that] if you have not been vaccinated, you will not be able to enter a lot of premises or engage in a lot of activities,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a press conference last month.

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam. File photo: GovHK.

Lam has repeatedly denied that the pass is equivalent to compulsory vaccination.

At a two-person protest on Tuesday, pro-democracy group the League of Social Democrats said that while they do not oppose the Covid-19 vaccine, they were against the implementation of a vaccine pass and urged the government to “respect citizens’ medical choice.”

Hong Kong initially struggled to boost its vaccination rate, and hesitancy appears to remain among its most vulnerable populations.

Covid-19 Coronavirus vaccine
Officers of Hong Kong’s Fire Services Department receiving vaccinations. Photo: GovHK.

To date, almost 75 per cent of the city’s eligible population of those aged 12 and above have received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccines available in the city. However, that figure drops to just 26 per cent among those aged 80 or over.

Another daily record of Covid-19 cases

Hong Kong hit another record number of daily Covid-19 cases – and record number of related deaths – on Wednesday.

The city reported 4,285 new infections, more than double of the previous peak of 2,071 on Monday. Photos of hospital beds lining up outside accident and emergency departments have gone viral as the city’s medical facilities scramble to keep up with the rise in cases.

covid-19 covid hospital
Caritas Medical Centre in Sham Shui Po on Wednesday, February 16. Photo: inmediahk.net, via CC2.0.

Nine Covid-19 patients died, including a three-year-old girl. The toddler had no underlying medical issues and had been in critical condition since being admitted to Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin on Saturday.

Amid the growing outbreak, the government announced last weekend that it has solicited the help of mainland authorities to boost Hong Kong’s testing capacity. Seven dedicated clinics for Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms will also be opened, health authorities said on Tuesday.

Hong Kong has reported 30,955 Covid-19 cases and 224 related deaths since the pandemic began.

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Hillary Leung

Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.