Appeals against decision on covert surveillance regime are dismissed The covert surveillance controversy is poised to reach Hong Kong's top court after the appeals court yesterday upheld an earlier ruling challenged by both the government and the appellants. The Court of Appeal dismissed two appeals and a cross appeal to Mr Justice Michael Hartmann's February decision to rule the current covert surveillance regime unconstitutional but to suspend the effect of the declaration for six months. Appellant 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung appealed against the suspension and wanted the court to order the chief executive to enact the Interception of Communications Ordinance, passed by the legislature in 1997 but never introduced. The government, meanwhile, appealed against the unconstitutionality decision. Mr Leung yesterday vowed to take the case to the highest court, saying it was a matter of defending the civil rights of Hong Kong people. The government, which had earlier indicated to the Court of Appeal it could take the matter to the Court of Final Appeal, yesterday said it was still studying the judgment. Court of Appeal judge Mr Justice Robert Tang Ching, giving the judgment on behalf of the court, rejected the government's contention that Basic Law Article 30, which protects the freedom and privacy of communication, was intended to 'cut down on the protection' provided by Article 39, which applies international rights treaties to Hong Kong. But he said the Interception of Communications Ordinance did not impose a duty on the chief executive to bring it into force on a particular date. He also said the suspension order was 'an exceptional remedy' but that the court had the jurisdiction to make such an order, citing a decision from the Supreme Court of Canada. 'We are of the view that the extraordinary dangers, which Hong Kong might face in the absence of a stay, and which would threaten the rule of law and the fabric of our society, give rise to the jurisdiction to stay,' he said. 'The making of the order was an exercise of discretion ... on the basis that the maintenance of the rule of law requires it, we would have exercised our discretion in the same way.' Both sides have 28 days to seek leave from the Court of Appeal to take the case to the Court of Final Appeal. A Security Bureau spokesman welcomed the judgment in respect of the temporary validity of the present arrangement. He said the judgment would 'in no way affect our aim to have the [Interception of Communications and Surveillance] Bill enacted by the end of this legislative session.'