1. On 18 November 2019, the High Court ruled that the Hong Kong SAR government’s ban on face coverings in public places under the Emergency Regulations Ordinance (the “ERO”) was “incompatible with the Basic Law” and that the new law, which had gone into effect since 5 October, imposed excessive restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms.
  2. A day later, Zang Tiewei, spokesperson of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (the “NPCSC”), issued a strongly-worded statement criticizing the High Court’s decision. Zang went so far as to say that “whether the laws of Hong Kong can comply with the Basic Law can only be decided by the NPCSC. No other authority has the right to make such judgments.” 
  3. The Progressive Lawyers Group (the “PLG”) finds the NPCSC’s statement shocking, inappropriate and legally unsound. Since the Handover, Hong Kong courts have been exercising the power of adjudication and, more specifically, the power to interpret the Basic Law to determine whether the government’s actions and laws are consistent therewith. It is a fundamental tenet of the separation of powers prescribed in Chapter IV (Political Structure) of the Basic Law and a cornerstone of the “one country, two systems” framework.
  4. Article 158 of the Basic Law stipulates that “[t]he power of interpretation of [the Basic] Law shall be vested in the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.” But this power is not exclusive to the NPCSC. Article 158 goes on to say that “[t]he courts of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region may also interpret… [the Basic] Law in adjudicating cases.” Even though the NPCSC has the ultimate power to interpret the Basic Law and such interpretation is binding on Hong Kong courts, it does not mean that the NPCSC, alone, has the sole power to interpret the Basic Law.
  5. The PLG believes that the NPCSC statement, however intended, has the effect of intimidating Hong Kong judges and putting undue pressure on them to adjudicate cases in a way that comply with Beijing’s views. Continued intimidation from China will chip away at Hong Kong’s independent judiciary and separation of powers, which are bedrocks of the territory’s prosperity and long-term viability. 
  6. The PLG notes that, to date, former chief justice Andrew Li, leading constitutional experts such as Johannes Chan, Mark Daly and Martin Lee, and the Hong Kong Bar Association have all expressed their disagreement with and concerns over the NPCSC’s statement.
  7. The PLG believes that the High Court ruling on the face covering ban is an important recognition of Hong Kong’s independent judiciary and rule of law. We stand by our 4 October statement on the Hong Kong SAR Government’s invocation of the ERO, in which we expressed concerns that the ERO bypasses the legislative branch and undermines the constitutional checks and balances on the executive branch, and that the ban on face coverings does nothing to quell the current social unrest or address the protesters’ demands.
  8. In light of the foregoing, the PLG demands that the Hong Kong SAR government: 
    1. respect the High Court ruling and refrain from seeking an interpretation of the Basic Law in an attempt to overrule the High Court’s decision over the face covering ban;
    2. refrain from invoking the ERO to enact other regulations to crack down on the current protests; and
    3. demonstrate its commitment to the “one country, two systems” framework and the separation of powers prescribed in the Basic Law. 
  9. The PLG continues to call on the Hong Kong SAR Government to address the protesters’ demands, including the setting up of an independent commission to investigate police’s misconduct and excessive force. Nearly six months into the unrest, the PLG is more committed than ever to safeguarding Hong Kong’s rule of law and fundamental rights.

The Progressive Lawyers Group

21 November 2019

 

  1. 香港高等法院於2019年11月18日裁定香港特區政府引用《緊急情況規例條例》(下稱《緊急法》)禁止市民於公眾地方蒙面的規例「不符合基本法」,並強調該於2019年10月5日起生效的規例過分地限制基本權利及自由。
  2. 一日後,全國人民代表大會常委會(下稱「人大常委會」)法制工作委員會「下稱「法工委」)發言人臧鐵偉措辭強硬地批評高等法院的判決,甚至聲稱「香港特別行政區法律是否符合香港基本法,只能由全國人大常委會作出判斷和決定,任何其他機關都無權作出判斷和決定」。
  3. 法政匯思認為人大常委會的聲明令人詫異、有欠恰當,法理上亦站不住腳。自香港主權移交以來,香港法院一直行使審判權無礙,尤其是解釋基本法以審視政府的行為及法律是否符合基本法的權力。這是基本法第四章(政治體制)下所規定的三權分立下的基本原則,以及「一國兩制」框架的重要基石。
  4. 基本法第158條規定「本法的解釋權屬於全國人民代表大會常務委員會。」然而,此權力並非人大常委會獨有。承上,根據第158條,「全國人民代表大會常務委員會授權香港特別行政區法院在審理案件時對本法關於香港特別行政區自治範圍內的條款自行解釋」。儘管人大常委會擁有解釋基本法的終極權力而其解釋對香港法院有約束力,但是這並不代表唯有人大常委會才有權解釋基本法。
  5. 法政匯思認為是次人大常委會的聲明,不論出於任何意圖,已有威嚇香港法官並對其施加不當壓力的效果,以使他們作出符合北京觀點的判決。中國的恣意恫嚇將蠶食香港的司法獨立和三權分立,動搖本港的繁榮及長遠存續的重要根基。
  6. 法政匯思指出,至今已有終審法院前首席法官李國能,陳文敏教授、帝理邁律師、李柱銘資深大律師等憲法專家,以及香港大律師公會,一致反映對上述聲明的異議和關注。
  7. 法政匯思相信高等法院就禁蒙面法的判決是香港司法獨立及法治的重要指標。我們重申早前於10月4日就香港政府引用《緊急法》之聲明,指出《緊急法》繞過立法機關並削弱其對行政機關的憲制制約,何況禁止蒙面無法平息社會動盪或回應示威訴求。
  8. 有見上述,法政匯思要求香港特區政府:
    1. 尊重高等法院之判決並避免尋求釋法以推翻高等法院就禁止蒙面之裁決;
    2. 避免引用《緊急法》訂立其他規例打壓現時的示威;及
    3. 展示其維持基本法下「一國兩制」框架及三權分立的決心。
  9. 同時,法政匯思繼續促請香港特區政府切實回應示威者的訴求,包括成立獨立調查委員會以調查警察違紀及濫暴的情況。在社會動盪將要持續至第六個月之時,法政匯思必定更堅決地捍衛香港的法治及基本權利。

法政匯思

2019年11月21日