法政匯思就香港政府引用《緊急情況規例條例》之聲明

1. 香港特別行政區政府已根據《緊急情況規例條例》(下稱《緊急法》)制訂《禁止蒙面規例》(下稱《禁蒙面法》),並將於2019年10月5日凌晨起實施。《禁蒙面法》禁止任何人在身處合法集會和遊行 、非法或未經批准集結或暴動時,完全或部分遮掩面部。「蒙面物品」的定義包括手術面罩、防毒面具,及其他物料例如顏料。《禁蒙面法》亦賦予警務人員權利要求任何人除去蒙面物品。

2. 《緊急法》於1920年代制訂,屬過時、性質模糊的一條法例。不合時宜的《緊急法》與公民自由和法治等現代觀念並不相容。其模糊性使行政機關獲得極大酌情處理權,在當今的政治氣候下,政府面對日漸沉重的壓力,不惜以任何代價終止社會動盪,《緊急法》尤其容易被濫用。

3. 《緊急法》賦予行政機關廣大的權力以「緊急情況」及「危害公安」為由訂立任何規例,而上述理由在《緊急法》下並無定義並可作廣義解釋。更令人不安的是,《緊急法》並無夕陽條款或其他規例指定該等緊急或危害公安的情況將何時結束。這些決定皆由行政長官一人在行政會議內作出決定,而她亦可同樣地以同等理由訂立其他規例,包括宵禁、戒嚴、審查社交媒體及其他通訊或充公私人財產。情況如以上所述模式急劇惡化,將引起嚴重的問責及濫權問題。

4. 法政匯思認為引用《緊急法》是繞過立法機關並削弱立法機關在憲制上對行政機關的制約。政府此舉是對立法會明目張膽的漠視,並進一步蠶食香港素來行之有效的三權分立。

5. 更重要的是,使用《緊急法》並不能解決目前的社會動盪或回應警民衝突背後的訴求。《禁蒙面法》只會進一步刺激示威者,令運動火上加油。

6. 雖然政府聲稱《禁蒙面法》旨在針對暴力,然而該規例並不區分和平與勇武示威者,一併禁止所有人於示威時蒙面,與政府的說法相違背,這尤其令人擔憂。即使是和平的示威者亦日益面對來自僱主的壓力甚至報復的風險,或於中港的邊防遭任意審查其手提電話的內容。再者,失去面罩的保護後,參與集會人士將更直接地暴露於催淚彈及胡椒噴霧中,當中的毒素可能對健康有長期的影響。因此,即使是和平示威者亦難倖免於《禁蒙面法》的寒蟬效應,侵害市民的隱私權及集會自由。

7. 而更不公義和無理的是,根據保安局局長說法,警務人員將獲豁免於《禁蒙面法》下禁令。在過去的四個月以來,這座城市見證了執法方越來越暴力和濫權的行為。 《禁蒙面法》的傾側性有機會使警務人員更無後顧之憂,並鼓勵他們越加暴力以鎮壓本來就一直要求警隊問責的示威者。

8. 廣泛又不受控制的權力會招致濫權,而任何濫用權力的行為都會威脅法治。今天政府引用《緊急法》標誌著現屆政府無意與公眾進行有建設性的對話,反之它選擇繼續依賴強硬的執法手段來解決當前政治危機,甚至不惜犧牲香港自由港及國際金融中心的聲譽。

9. 法政匯思呼籲政府立即撤回《禁蒙面法》,並就其對法治和公民自由作出如此不明智和不合理的攻擊嚴正道歉。

法政匯思

2019年10月4日

(PDF版本:https://tinyurl.com/y3z5pxoq)

Statement on the Hong Kong SAR Government Invoking the Emergency Regulations Ordinance

1. The Hong Kong SAR Government has invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance (“ERO”) to implement the Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation (“PFCR”) which will come into force at midnight on 5 October 2019. The PFCR will ban anyone from covering their faces in full or partially for mere presence in lawful rallies and marches, unlawful or unauthorised assemblies, or riots. The definition of “covering” includes surgical masks, gas masks, and other materials such as face paint. The PFCR also gives the police the power to order anyone to remove such covering.

2. The ERO is an outdated and vague piece of legislation that dates back to the 1920s. Its outdatedness makes it non-compatible with modern notions of civil liberties and rule of law. Its vaguesness confers enormous discretionary powers to the executive branch, which in turn makes it open to abuse especially in the current political climate where the government is under mounting pressure to put an end to the social unrest at any cost.

3. The ERO grants extensive powers to the executive branch to enact any regulation on the pretext of “public emergency” and “serious public disorder,” neither is defined under the ERO and can be broadly interpreted. More disconcertingly, the ERO contains no sunset clauses or other limits as to when such emergency or disorder would cease to exist. These decisions are to be made solely by the Chief Executive in council, who may go on to enact other regulations on a similar pretext, including curfew, martial law, censoring of social media and other communications or seizure of personal property. This slippery slope raises serious accountability and abuse of power concerns.

4. The PLG believes that the invocation of the ERO bypasses the legislative branch and undermines the constitutional checks and balances on the executive branch. The government’s move represents a brazen disregard of the Legislative Council and further erodes Hong Kong’s well-established separation of powers.

5. More crucially, the invocation of the ERO does nothing to quell the current social unrest or address the protesters’ demands that have fueled months of violent clashes with the police. If anything, the PFCR will incite protesters even more and lead to further escalation of the movement.

6. Contrary to the government’s claim that the PFCR is aimed at addressing violence, the fact that it applies equally to peaceful and violent demonstrators is a direct contraditon of that pretext. This is especially troubling considering that nonviolent protest participants are facing increasing pressure and threats of reprisal from their employers and are subject to random mobile phone checks at mainland border controls. Furthemore, without face masks, participants will be more exposed to tear gas and pepper spray during street demonstrations, both of which contain harmful toxants with potentially long term health effects. As such, the PFCR is expected to have a chilling effect on even legal protests and violate citizens’ right to privacy and freedom of assembly.

7. What is more unjust and arbitrary is that according to the Secretary for Security, the PFCR exempts police officers from the face covering ban. Over the past four months, the city has witnessed increasingly violent and abusive behaviour on the part of law enforcement. The one-sideness of the PFCR may result in increased impunity among officers and encourage them to step up violent crackdown of protesters who, apropos, have been demanding a more accountable police force among other things.

8. Broad and unchecked powers beget abuse, and any abuse of power threatens the rule of law. The invocation of the ERO today is a signal that the current administration is not interested in engaging the public in a constructive dialogue but that it continues to rely on the blunt instrument of law enforcement to solve a political crisis, even at the cost of tarnishing Hong Kong’s reputation as a free port and financial hub.

9. The PLG calls on the government to immediately withdraw the PFCR and issue an apology for such an ill-conceived and unjustified attack on the rule of law and civil liberties.

The Progressive Lawyers Group

4 October 2019

(PDF: https://tinyurl.com/y3z5pxoq)