A Hong Kong court has agreed to hear a challenge against the government’s decision to void more than 20,000 Covid-19 jab exemption certificates issued by seven private doctors, who are suspected of handing out the documents without conducting prior medical diagnoses.

Justice Russell Coleman of the High Court on Monday allowed Kwok Cheuk-kin, dubbed the “king of judicial reviews,” to challenge whether Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau had the authority to declare the certificates in question invalid.

High Court. File photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

The judge ordered a hearing to be held on Tuesday morning for the court to consider further directions, saying the case involved “potential urgency.”

Police arrested Dr Tai Kong-shing, Dr Annie Choi, Dr Fu Yuen-lung, Dr Wong Ping-leung, Dr Charlie Yan and Dr Amy Lam last month on suspicion of issuing Covid-19 vaccination medical exemption certificates without conducting medical consultation and reviewing the patients’ history. They were said to have charged between HK$350 and $5,000 for each certificate.

The government later announced that the jab exemption proof obtained from the arrested doctors would not be recognised from October 12. Anyone holding a certificate issued by one of the doctors in question should consult other doctors to see if they were suitable for vaccination, it said.

Kwok Cheuk-kin. File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

The authorities also named the seventh practitioner involved, Dr Chan Hoi-yuk, who is reportedly wanted after police officers rounded up staff from his clinic in March. He was not in Hong Kong at the time.

Police also arrested a number of patients who visited the clinics concerned, including four civil servants, who were apprehended on suspicion of purchasing false Covid-19 jab exemptions.

In a writ he filed last Friday, Kwok urged the court to rule Lo’s decision as “illegal” and in breach of the International Bill of Human Rights. He said the arrangement would bar citizens who had a vaccination exemption proof from a qualified Western medicine doctor and did not have the “Leave Home Safe” contact-tracing app from “going out to join any activities”

The court should also rule that the government’s decision was “not feasible,” the applicant added.

“Abolishing the vaccination exemption certificates is illegal, and the law did not grant Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau the power to abolish the exemption proof,” the handwritten writ read.

Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau. Photo: Almond Li/HKFP.

Judicial reviews are considered by the Court of First Instance and examine the decision-making processes of administrative bodies. Issues under review must be shown to affect the wider public interest.

The issue of legality surrounding the government’s decision was also raised by lawmaker and solicitor Doreen Kong last week. The Prevention and Control of Disease (Vaccine Pass) Regulation did not state clearly under which circumstances the Health Bureau would have the authority not to recognise the exemption certificates, she said.

It was possible that government announcement would be challenged in court, the legislator said at the time.

Despite the calls for clarification, the city’s number two official Eric Chan defended the administration’s decision as “sensible and reasonable.” He said allowing the certificates to be used would pose a risk to people’s health and add “unnecessary pressure” on the public healthcare system.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.