Haircuts for Hong Kong male inmates to continue, court rules, in blow to lawmaker ‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok-hung
Order means the pro-democracy legislator could face a haircut if jailed again
The Hong Kong government on Monday won an extension for prison officers to continue cutting male inmates’ hair for at least another six months without the practice being declared discriminatory or unlawful as a court had ruled in a judicial review in January.
The extension is to run until March 31 next year or when the court rules on the government’s appeal against pro-democracy lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung’s successful bid to keep his iconic mane during incarceration – whichever comes earlier.
The appeal hearing has been scheduled for two days starting next January 3.
The High Court order meant Leung, who mounted the legal challenge after his signature locks were cut in June 2014, could face another haircut if jailed again.
The lawmaker is currently awaiting a verdict next month on a misconduct trial in which he was accused of accepting HK$250,000 from a media tycoon without declaring the sum to the Legislative Council.
He is also awaiting an appeal against a seven-day jail term for disrupting a school debate competition in 2015.
Leung’s counsel, Hectar Pun Hei SC, who represented him in the misconduct trial, expressed concern after the court ruling on a potential second haircut.
But he was interrupted by Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung, who said with a smile: “You have to be confident in your case.”
Au also noted: “Nothing will prevent Mr Leung from coming back.”
Jin Pao, for the Correctional Services Department, added: “The doors of justice are always open to Mr Leung.”
The judge granted the extension after Pao revealed the department’s commissioner had yet to formulate a viable alternative to the government’s existing standing order for all male inmates to receive compulsory haircuts while female inmates get to keep their hair.
The practice had been declared discriminatory or, alternatively, unlawful in the judicial review ruling in January, with Au quashing the decision to cut Leung’s hair. But such declarations were put on hold until June 1 as the court noted the government would need time for internal arrangements.
Pao said the commissioner was reluctant to put in place a hastily devised or half-baked alternative that could bring wide ramifications for the prison population, especially for female inmates whose emotional well-being was at stake.
But Pun countered that the reason was not compelling enough to support an extension, especially when the government had already established a task group in May 2015 to tackle the possible impact of a court judgment and there had been no suggestion the commissioner could come up with a new plan if given more time.
“The commissioner, with respect, is trying to go through the back door to get a court order whose usefulness is in doubt,” Pun argued.