HK judges say prison staff wrong to cut dissident’s hair

28-Nov-2020 Intellasia | AFP | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong prison staff were wrong to cut the hair of a veteran dissident known for his long locks, the city’s top court said Friday, in the second significant ruling against authorities this month.

The decision comes as powerful establishment voices call for an overhaul of the judiciarysomething opponents fear could muzzle the Hong Kong legal system’s vaunted independence as Beijing cracks down on critics.

Hong Kong judges on Friday ruled that prison staff had been wrong to cut the hair of activist Leung Kwok-hung, centre, known as "Long Hair" for his silver locks. (Bangkok Post)

Hong Kong judges on Friday ruled that prison staff had been wrong to cut the hair of activist Leung Kwok-hung, centre, known as “Long Hair” for his silver locks. (Bangkok Post)

Friday’s ruling by the Final Court of Appeal is the culmination of a long legal battle by Leung Kwok-hung, 64, who served a brief jail sentence in 2014 linked to his protesting.

Better known by the sobriquet “Longhair”, he is one of the city’s best known dissidents, beginning his career campaigning against British colonial rule and later becoming a fierce critic of Beijing.

A panel of top judgesincluding Chief Justice Geoffrey Maunanimously ruled that Leung’s rights had been breached under sexual discrimination laws when his hair was cut in jail.

Hong Kong prison authorities insist all male inmates keep their hair cut short, but female convicts are allowed to grow theirs long if they wish.

“The fact that male prisoners are denied a choice as to their hair length, suggests that they are treated less favourably than female prisoners,” the judges wrote, adding authorities had failed to explain why short hair was required for custodial discipline.

The decision comes at a sensitive time for Hong Kong’s legal system.

Unlike authoritarian China’s party-controlled judiciary, the city maintains an independent common law system that forms the bedrock of its success as a global trade and finance hub.

But two leading pro-Beijing newspapers in the cityand a vocal group of pro-government politicianshave recently begun calling for reforms to the judiciary.

Earlier this month those calls won backing in a speech by Zhang Xiaoming, a senior Chinese official responsible for the central government’s policies towards Hong Kong.

Beijing loyalists have been incensed by recent acquittals of some protestersoften by judges with harsh words to say about police behaviour and evidence gatheringand judicial reviews that have gone against the government.

Last week a High Court judge delivered a damning ruling against police in a case linked to last year’s huge and often violent pro-democracy protests.

The judgement, which can still be appealed, found that officers were wrong to hide their identification badges and that the city’s watchdog has been “inadequate” in investigating complaints against officers.

Staunch pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao ran a scathing report on the ruling under the headline “Thugs rule, no human rights for policemen”.

That article sparked a call from the influential Bar Association for the government to vocally defend the judiciary’s independence.


Category: Hong Kong

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