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Sunday, Dec 15, 2019

Beijing attacks Hong Kong court’s decision to end ban on face masks

Under the Basic Law, or the ‘one country, two systems’ mechanism, Hong Kong enjoys a set of freedoms like the right to free speech and the right to gather not enjoyed by mainland citizens.

world Updated: Nov 19, 2019 19:04 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
Hong Kong local court nullified a ban that banned protesters from wearing face masks.
Hong Kong local court nullified a ban that banned protesters from wearing face masks.(Bloomberg Photo)
         

China’s top legislature on Tuesday said Hong Kong courts have no power to rule on the constitutionality of the Basic Law that rules the city, a day after a local court nullified a ban that banned protesters from wearing face masks.

The strong statement from a spokesperson of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the mainland’s rubber-stamp Parliament, in Beijing could fuel the very fear that’s said to be driving the ongoing, violent protests in Hong Kong since June – Beijing is gradually eroding the unique set of freedoms enjoyed by citizens of Hong Kong.

“Some NPC deputies have voiced strong dissatisfaction with this,” official news agency, Xinhua quoted Zang Tiewei, an NPC spokesperson as saying in Beijing on Tuesday.

“The Constitution and the Basic Law together form the constitutional basis of the special administrative region (which is Hong Kong),” the spokesperson said.

“Whether a law of the HKSAR (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) is in conformity with the Basic Law of the HKSAR can only be judged and decided by the NPC Standing Committee, and no other organ has the right to judge or decide,” Zang said.

Under the Basic Law, or the “one country, two systems” mechanism, Hong Kong enjoys a set of freedoms like the right to free speech and the right to gather not enjoyed by mainland citizens.

The demonstrations, which began in June over a controversial extradition treaty, have since evolved into a broader protest including the demand for complete universal suffrage and investigation into police brutality on the protesters; the extradition bill – thought to be undermining Hong Kong’s judicial independence – has been withdrawn.

Spokesperson Zang’s argument that “…the ordinance is consistent with the Basic Law,” could add to that fear.

“The ruling of the Court of First Instance of the High Court of the HKSAR has seriously undermined the legitimate power of the Chief Executive and the Government of the HKSAR to govern in accordance with laws, and is inconsistent with the Basic Law of the HKSAR and the relevant decisions of the NPC Standing Committee,” Zang added.

“We are studying relevant opinions and suggestions from some NPC deputies,” the spokesperson said.