My Take

‘Long Hair’ has opened up a can of worms

His legal victory that mandatory haircuts for male prisoners amounts to sex discrimination means women inmates may now face the same restrictions

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 February, 2017, 2:06am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 February, 2017, 2:06am

I used to think “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung harmless. Now the self-styled Marxist lawmaker has made himself a real menace. Just ask the hundreds of women prisoners in Hong Kong.

Thanks to Leung, many of them are now in danger of having to cut their hair short because of a court order. Some have threatened open defiance if they are made to do so. Correctional Services Department bosses have warned of “unimaginable consequences”.

Women in Hong Kong prisons may be forced to cut hair short

What started off as one of those typically pointless acts of Leung to thumb his nose at the authorities has turned out to have real-life consequences – against one of the most powerless and vulnerable groups in our society.

Thankfully, government lawyers have filed an appeal after the Court of First Instance ruled last month in favour of Leung, who challenged the lawfulness of orders requiring him and all male prisoners – but not female inmates – to cut their hair short. Leung was briefly jailed in 2014 for criminal damage during a protest. For those few weeks of having to shear his precious locks, Leung now threatens to make every prisoner lose theirs. Don’t tell me he never thought of this possibility.

He argued the male prison practice amounted to sex discrimination, and that his personal dignity was offended. Most people would have just rolled their eyes. But the judge was somehow convinced.

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Prison bosses then have a choice of either allowing anyone to keep their hair long or making everyone cut it short. You can guess which one they will pick if these are the only choices. The department hopes to win the appeal before the June 1 deadline to comply with the judgment.

Male and female prisons have very different security and disciplinary requirements. This does not mean that men are being discriminated against for having to cut their hair.

Hong Kong legislator ‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok-hung triumphant in case of lost prison locks

Also, a mandatory haircut doesn’t mean male prisoners are being treated any less favourably or with less dignity. In any case, being in jail by definition means losing many rights and freedoms that most people are naturally entitled to.

Leung now wants to run for chief executive. Yet pan-democrats on the Election Committee don’t want to waste their votes on nominating him. Even his comrades can’t take him seriously.

Long Hair, if you want to keep your locks, stay out of jail.