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COMMENT | Is the emergency proclamation truly justified? (Pt I)

COMMENT | Like many others, I listened very carefully to our prime minister addressing the nation on the need to have a proclamation of emergency on Jan 12, 2021, and his further explanation on Feb 4. I have still to be convinced that the proclamation of emergency was truly justified and necessary.

In response, I have written this two-part essay to look a little more closely at some of the specific provisions of the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 (EO 2021). In this first part, I will look at the medical and logistical provisions. In the second part, I will look at the security and constitutional provisions.

What are the powers under the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021?

Section 3 gives the government the power to take temporary possession of land, building or movable property.

The Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (1988 Act) already provides for wide powers of requisition. Section 26(1) of the 1988 Act provides that: "Whenever it appears to the director-general necessary for the carrying out of any of the provisions of this Act and the regulations made under this Act, he may in writing authorise any authorised officer to requisition temporarily any premises for such period as in the opinion of the director-general is necessary."

The prime minister has argued that the power to requisition premises is needed so that the government can also call on private sector facilities.

Under the latest version of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures Within Infected Local Areas) (Movement Control) Regulations 2021 ('Regulations'), made pursuant to the 1988 Act, section 15 entitled 'Directions of Director-General' states: "The director-general may issue any directions in any manner, whether generally or specifically, to any person or group of persons to take such measures for the purpose of preventing and controlling any infectious diseases within any infected local area."

The power is clearly...

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