Questions and Answers on the Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation
(For Public’s Reference)
1. Purpose of the Regulation?
Prohibiting any person from using a facial covering which prevents identification at a “public meeting” or “public procession” regulated under the Public Order Ordinance (Cap. 245), or unlawful or unauthorised assembly.
2. Why the need to prohibit facial covering?
Almost all persons performing acts of serious violence and damages in unlawful assemblies in
the past few months concealed their identities under a facial covering.
Without a facial covering, some will be more prudent about the lawfulness and reasonableness of their acts. The Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation will have some degree of deterrent effect, preventing any person from committing serious crimes unscrupulously and impulsively.
3. What is meant by “public meeting”, “public procession” and “unlawful / unauthorised assembly”?
According to the Public Order Ordinance :
-Unlawful assembly : when 3 or more persons assembled together and their conduct is likely to cause any person to fear that there will be a breach of the peace or provoke others to commit a breach of the peace.
-Unauthorized assembly :
- any public meeting of over 50 persons or public procession of over 30 persons which takes place in contravention of the requirements under the Public Order Ordinance; or
- when 3 or more persons at a meeting, procession or gathering refuse to obey an order given by the Police under the Public Order Ordinance.
- Public meeting* of over 50 persons in respect of which the Police have been notified and have not prohibited.
- Public procession of over 30 persons in respect of which the Police have been notified and have issued a letter of no objection.
* A meeting does not include any gathering or assembly held exclusively for social, recreational, cultural, academic, educational, religious or charitable purposes; funeral purpose; purpose of any public body (e.g. public forum held by Government); or carrying out any duty under any ordinance.
4. Is it illegal to wear a mask?
The Regulation only proscribes face covering at certain regulated assemblies, meetings or processions, and does not affect daily life. A person can wear masks when sick. When the Police requires a person to remove his/her mask in a public place, it is done for the purpose of verifying the person’s identity at the moment.
5. Will the Regulation infringe religious freedom?
Wearing a veil for religion will not constitute an offence under the law. The Regulation does not infringe religious freedom.
6. At what sizes would masks be regarded as a facial covering? What about sunglasses, hats, respirators, head covers? Is it permitted to cover one’s eyes, nose or mouth with transparent plastic wraps?
The Regulation defines “facial covering” as a mask or any other article of any kind (including paint) that covers all or part of a person’s face. Whether or not an article is a “facial covering” would depend on whether the definition is met. A user of facial covering will commit an offence when the facial covering is likely to prevent identification.
7. Police officers may require any person in a public place to remove a mask. Will this affect those members of the public who have no intention to participate in a public meeting?
This arrangement of the Police is for identity verification at the moment, and does not affect people’s right to participate in meetings. A person will not violate the law if he/she is cooperative with the Police’s requirement.
8. Will the Regulation increase the risk of epidemic transmission during public meetings? Can pregnant women or persons with bronchial allergy or disorders in immunity system wear a mask?
The Regulation will not increase the risk of epidemic transmission during public meetings or in Hong Kong as a whole. It is a reasonable excuse for a person having pre-existing medical or health conditions to wear a mask.
9. Would it constitute an offence if a person is found having possession of a mask when he/she is being stopped by the Police?
No. The provision proscribes facial covering at unlawful assemblies, unauthorized assemblies as well as public meetings and processions for which a letter of no objection has been issued.
Disclaimer : This publication is for general information only and does not constitute any legal advice.
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