[JURIST] Hong Kong High Court Justice Michael Hartmann has ruled [decision text, in English] that an executive order on covert surveillance operations made last year by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen [official profile] is unconstitutional. Instead of immediately repealing it, however, he gave the government six months to replace it, declaring that having no law regarding covert surveillance would leave a dangerous "legal vacuum" and would "constitute a real threat to the rule of law" itself. The controversial Law Enforcement (Covert Surveillance Procedure) Order was issued [Tsang remarks] by the Chief Executive in August 2005 and was immediately criticized [PDF] by the Hong Kong Bar Association as asserting a power to authorize covert surveillance of citizens and infringe their fundamental rights when only a law can could do that.
Hartmann Thursday also ruled unconstitutional a law that allowed phone-tapping by authorities because the ordinance was inconsistent with Basic Law [text and background] Articles 30 and 39, which guarantee the right to free and private communication. Opponents of Hartmann's ruling claim the suspension of the executive order leaves much uncertainty and that there is no guarantee there will be a replacement law within six months. Asia Media has more.