Emergency Regulations Ordinance

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Emergency Regulations Ordinance
Regional Emblem of Hong Kong.svg
Legislative Council of Hong Kong
CitationCap. 241
Enacted byLegislative Council of Hong Kong
Commenced28 February 1922
Legislative history
BillStrike Legislation Bill 1922[1]
Introduced byAttorney General Joseph Horsford Kemp
First reading28 February 1922
Second reading28 February 1922
Third reading28 February 1922
Status: Unknown

The Emergency Regulations Ordinance (Cap. 241) is a law of Hong Kong that confers on the Chief Executive in Council the power to make regulations on occasions that the Chief Executive believes to be an emergency or public danger. It was first introduced in Colonial Hong Kong in 1922 to combat the seamen's strikes which had immobilized the city's ports, and was invoked on several occasions during the colonial rule.[2]

In case of emergency or public danger, it can be invoked by the Chief Executive-in-Council. Under the provisions of the ordinance, the Chief Executive has the power to make "any regulations whatsoever which he may consider desirable in the public interest." Among the many powers permitting the Chief Executive to exercise upon invoking the ordinance, it also include arrests, property seizures, deportation, control of the ports and transportation, and censorship.[3][4]

The government invoked the ordinance during the 1967 Hong Kong riots, during the oil crisis in 1973[5], and during the 2019 Hong Kong protests.[4]


In January 1922, the Chinese Seamen's Union demanded pay rises of up to 40% from their local employers, and some 30,000 Chinese seamen went on strike. Their grievances lay in the fact that the average Chinese port worker's monthly income was insufficient to support his family while his Caucasian counterparts, who earned several times more, had been granted 15% wage rise. The Emergency Regulations Ordinance was passed by the colonial government that year – enacted in a single day – to combat the strikes, which paralyzed the ports.[2]

Aside from format changes made in 2018, the last major amendments to the ordinance was in 1999.[6]


  1. On any occasion which the Chief Executive in Council may consider to be an occasion of emergency or public danger he may make any regulations whatsoever which he may consider desirable in the public interest.
  2. such regulations may provide for:
  1. censorship, and the control and suppression of publications, writings, maps, plans, photographs, communications and means of communication;
  2. arrest, detention, exclusion and deportation;
  3. control of the harbours, ports and waters of Hong Kong, and the movements of vessels;
  4. transportation by land, air or water, and the control of the transport of persons and things;
  5. trading, exportation, importation, production and manufacture;
  6. appropriation, control, forfeiture and disposition of property, and of the use thereof;
  7. amending any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment and applying any enactment with or without modification;
  8. authorising the entry and search of premises;
  9. empowering such authorities or persons as may be specified in the regulations to make orders and rules and to make or issue notices, licences, permits, certificates or other documents for the purposes of the regulations;
  10. charging, in respect of the grant or issue of any licence, permit, certificate or other document for the purposes of the regulations, such fees as may be prescribed by the regulations;
  11. the taking of possession or control on behalf of the Chief Executive of any property or undertaking;
  12. requiring persons to do work or render services;
  13. payment of compensation and remuneration to persons affected by the regulations and the determination of such compensation; and
  14. the apprehension, trial and punishment of persons offending against the regulations or against any law in force in Hong Kong


Colonial Period[edit]

Scholars consider the law "a nuclear option" which "can literally run a dictatorship and suspend most rights."[3] The authority granted to censor specifically covers "the control and suppression of publications, writings, maps, plans, photographs, communications and means of communication."[3][4]

The last significant use of the law was in December 1973 during the oil crisis. Regulations were made to control the use of oil and motor fuel, to limit advertising displays and floodlighting. and to impose summer time.[7]

Special Administration Region Period[edit]

Although the Ordinance was enacted before the existence of the Internet, the Chief Executive would have the power under the ordinance to order private telecommunication companies to cut Internet services delivered through fixed-line and mobile phone networks. Alternatively, telecoms providers could be mandated to take other measures including slowing Internet speeds, disabling particular mobile phone networks and public WiFi spots or blocking certain websites and platforms.[4]

2019 anti-extradition bill protests[edit]

In order to stem violence and riotousness of certain individuals,[8] on 04 October 2019, the Chief Executive in Council invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to impose a law to ban wearing face masks or obscure facial identification[9] in public assemblies.[10][11] Effective 00:00 HKT on 05 October 2019, offenders risk one year imprisonment or a fine of HK$25,000 (~US$3,200).[12][13] An application for judicial injunction of the anti-mask law was denied by court on the same night shortly before the new regulation took effect.[14] A subsequent attempt[15] by pan-Democrats to halt the new regulation also failed, however, judicial review was recommended at a later date.[16]


  1. ^ "Bill Database". Government of Hong Kong. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Hong Kong mulls over emergency law to quell protests". South China Morning Post. 30 August 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Yu, Verna (28 August 2019). "'A nuclear option': Hong Kong and the threat of the emergency law". The Guardian.
  4. ^ a b c d "How Hong Kong protests could lead to internet cut-off". Bloomberg. 30 August 2019.
  5. ^ Miners, N. (1996). "The use and abuse of emergency powers by the Hong Kong Government". ISSN 0378-0600. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ "Cap. 241 Emergency Regulations Ordinance - Enactment History". e-Legislation. 1999. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  7. ^ Miners, Norman (1996). "The Use and Abuse of Emergency Powers by the Hong Kong Government" (PDF). Hong Kong Law Journal. 26: 47–57.
  8. ^ "Prohibition on Face Covering Regulation gazetted". www.info.gov.hk. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  9. ^ "CAP 241K PROHIBITION ON FACE COVERING REGULATION". www.hklii.hk. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  10. ^ "Anger as Hong Kong bans face masks at protests". BBC. 4 October 2019. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  11. ^ "As Hong Kong leader rolls out mask law, city burns during night of violence". South China Morning Post. 5 October 2019.
  12. ^ "Anti-mask law to take effect from midnight". RTHK. 4 October 2019.
  13. ^ Berlinger, Joshua; Regan, Helen (4 October 2019). "Hong Kong uses colonial-era emergency law, sparking night of violence". CNN. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  14. ^ "Hong Kong court denies emergency bid to halt controversial mask ban". Hong Kong Free Press. 4 October 2019.
  15. ^ "High Court again refuses injunction over mask ban - RTHK". news.rthk.hk. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  16. ^ "Judge explains reason for not allowing injunction - RTHK". news.rthk.hk. Retrieved 10 October 2019.

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