n a statement that isn’t likely to quell pro-democracy protesters’ fears of Beijing domination, China’s top legislature has declared that Hong Kong courts have no power to rule on the constitutionality of legislation under the city’s own Basic Law.
The statement follows a surprising ruling on Monday in which a Hong Kong court overturned the city’s ban on wearing face masks at demonstrations. That ban came into effect in October via colonial-era emergency power laws which the court said are now unconstitutional under Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the city’s de-facto constitution after its handover to China.
However, China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) has now insisted that the court had no standing to make this judgment.
“Whether a law of the HKSAR is in conformity with the Basic Law of the HKSAR can only be judged and decided by the NPC Standing Committee, and no other organ has the right to judge or decide,” a spokesman for China’s rubber-stamp parliament said.
For protesters, the statement provides further evidence for why they have taken to the streets, arguing that it shows the “one country, two systems” framework, which Hong Kong is nominally governed under, to be a sham with Beijing holding all the real power over the city’s affairs.
It’s unclear at this time if the NPC will invalidate the Hong Kong court’s decision but such a move would certainly end up escalating a conflict that has already spun far out of control.