The Hong Kong government may face a new legal challenge over its controversial move to invalidate around 20,000 Covid-19 vaccination exemption certificates issued by seven doctors, who allegedly handed them out without conducting proper medical consultations.

The fresh application for a judicial review filed by Kwok Cheuk-kin on Thursday came two days after the government amended its Covid-19 law to empower the health minister to void “fraudulent” vaccine exemptions, less than a week after the High Court declared it has no legal basis to do so.

Kwok Cheuk-kin. File photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

The applicant, dubbed the “king of judicial reviews,” urged the court to declare the Executive Council’s decision to change the provisions in the Prevention and Control of Disease (Vaccine Pass) Regulation as “unreasonable and illegal.”

Those affected by the amendments had no means to appeal the move, Kwok argued, adding the absence of an appeal mechanism was in breach of the Basic Law.

“If the government believed it was right, then it would have filed an appeal [against the judicial review decision], but they chose to amend the law,” he told HKFP on Thursday.

Asked how confident he was about winning the new judicial review application, Kwok said he only had “50 per cent chance” of succeeding: “The point for contention is very narrow.”

The High Court ruled in Kwok’s favour last Friday, when Justice Russell Coleman said Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau had failed to cite any powers that would authorise him to annul the certificates signed by seven private doctors who have since been arrested or are wanted by the police.

The High Court. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

On Wednesday, the government announced that the certificates would become invalid on November 9. This followed an amendment to the legislation after the health chief took into account “loopholes of the Vaccine Pass scheme” and other relevant factors, a government statement said.

Around 19,000 jab exemption certificates issued by the seven doctors were still valid as of Thursday, Under Secretary for Health Dr Libby Lee told reporters.

Among the holders of these certificates, around 11 per cent had already received one dose of Covid-19 vaccine. Around 800 of the certificate holders had obtained a new certificate since September 27.

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

The sheer number of certificates issued within a day cast doubt on their validity, Lee said.

“Some doctors issued several hundred jab exemption certificates within a day… it is a bit difficult to understand how they could conduct a thorough body check or a clinical assessment within such a short period of time to issue a certificate,” she said.

Lee denied that the latest move to invalidate the certificates amounted to “making judgement before a trial,” saying the health minister was empowered to do so by the latest legislative amendments.

So far, police have arrested 39 people – six doctors, seven clinic staff members and 26 patients. One doctor is currently wanted by the force. Their alleged offences included making a false instrument, conspiracy to defraud and access to a computer with dishonest intent.

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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.