Hong Kong courts have no power to rule on face mask ban, says China – The Guardian, Google News

Mainland weighs in after high court in Hong Kong strikes down colonial-era emergency laws

Protesters clash with police at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Protesters clash with police at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Photograph: Kevin On Man Lee / Penta Press / Rex / Shutterstock

China’s top legislature has saidHong Kongcourts have no power to rule on the constitutionality of legislation under the city’s Basic Law, which includes a proposed ban on face masks.

Beijing insisted it held the sole authority to rule on constitutional matters in the region.

The statement came a day after Hong Kong’s high court ruled that a ban on wearing face masks during public demonstrations that haverocked the financial hubfor more than five months was unconstitutional.

“Whether the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region comply with the Basic Law of Hong Kong can only be judged and decided by the standing committee of the National People’s Congress,” said Jian Tiewei, a spokesman for the Chinese legislative affairs commission. “No other authority has the right to make judgments and decisions.”

Jian said the ruling had “severely weakened the governance” of Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam and the city government.

The embattled Hong Kong chief executive, Carrie Lam, proposed a ban on face masks as the pro-democracy demonstrations escalated. Protesters had been using masks to hide their identities in public. The proposal was widely criticized by supporters of the anti-government movement who saw it as posing a risk to demonstrators.

Hong Kong’s high court ruled on Monday that colonial-era emergency laws, which were revived to justify the mask ban, were “incompatible with the Basic Law”, the mini-constitution under which Hong Kong was returned toChinain 1997.

The statement China comes amid chaos in Hong Kong where pro-democracy protests have been going for five months. Over the past 24 hours police have fought running battles with protesters trapped inside a university campus. Polytechnic University was surrounded by a security cordon on Tuesday morning. Overnight several groups of protesters were met by tear gas as they tried to escape. Police have said protesters inside have no option but to surrender.

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