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Hong Kong high court strikes down covert surveillance law

[JURIST] The Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal [official website, English version] Wednesday overturned [judgment] a lower court decision [JURIST report] that had allowed law enforcement to temporarily carry out covert surveillance. Justice Michael Hartmann of the Hong Kong High Court ruled [decision text, in English] in February that an executive order on covert surveillance operations made last year by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen [official profile] was unconstitutional, but granted a six month period for lawmakers to devise a new covert surveillance law before repealing the existing law. Wednesday's appeals court ruling threw out the six month breather period to create a new law, and declared the existing law unconstitutional. To "afford an opportunity for the enactment of corrective legislation," the court nonetheless suspended its declaration of unconstitutionality so as to postpone its coming into operation for six months from the date of Hartmann's original February ruling, leaving the government until early August to act, subject to potential legal liability in the interim.

Tsang issued [Tsang remarks] the controversial executive order last year and received immediate criticism [PDF] from the Hong Kong Bar Association [advocacy website] for acting outside of executive power. In February 2006 the Hong Kong Law Reform Commission released a set of proposals [JURIST report] to embed greater safeguards in the executive order. AFP has more.

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