Hong Kong court strikes down face mask ban

Hong Kong court rules anti-mask law unconstitutional

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(AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A ban on face masks imposed by Hong Kong's chief executive on pro-democracy protesters has been lifted after the High Court ruled the ban was unconstitutional.

The ban first went into effect in October, when Chief Executive Carrie Lam attempted to squash protests by dredging up a British colonial-era law that had not been used in 50 years. The ban did little to dissuade protestors, who continued to wear masks and conceal their identify from facial identification software and filter out the ubiquitous tear gas.

On Oct. 5, Lam announced the Prohibition On Face Covering Regulation, which was derived from the colonial era Emergency Regulations Ordinance. The next day, thousands of Hong Kong citizens wearing a huge variety of masks took to the streets to protest the ban.

Despite multiple arrests for violating the anti-mask law, protesters continued to take to the streets with all manner of masks in the subsequent month and a half after the ban went into effect. On Nov. 18, Hong Kong's High court ruled the ban was "incompatible with the Basic Law" the mini-constitution that has been in place since Hong Kong's handover to China in 1997, reported the South China Morning Post.

In a press statement, the court wrote: "The restrictions it imposes on fundamental rights go further than is reasonably necessary [...] and therefore fail to meet the proportionality test." In response, pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong on Twitter praised the ruling as a "rare legal victory for Hong Kong protesters."