Hong Kong's anti-mask law ruled unconstitutional by High Court

Under a law introduced by the Hong Kong government last month, wearing a mask at any kind of assembly was made illegal.
Under a law introduced by the Hong Kong government last month, wearing a mask at any kind of assembly was made illegal. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (AFP) - A government ban on demonstrators wearing face masks, aimed at helping to quell months of pro-democracy unrest in Hong Kong, is unconstitutional, the territory’s high court ruled on Monday (Nov 18).  

“The restrictions it imposes on fundamental rights... go further than is reasonably necessary... and therefore fail to meet the proportionality test,” the court said, according to a press summary.  

The ban on face-covering came into force in October, when the city’s unelected pro-Beijing leader invoked colonial-era legislation for the first time in more than 50 years.  

The move was seen as a watershed legal moment for the city since its 1997 return by Britain to China – but has been largely symbolic.

Under the law, wearing a mask at any kind of assembly was made illegal. The police had also been given the power to order people to remove masks at any time and at any location.

Demonstrators – most of them wearing masks – have continued to clash with police, often violently, as they press their demands for greater democracy for Hong Kong, as well as an independent inquiry into alleged brutality by the increasingly unpopular police force.