Hong Kong court scraps compulsory short hair for male prisoners
By Shirley Lau
Hong Kong, Nov 27 (efe-epa).- Hong Kong’s top court ruled on Friday that requiring male prisoners to cut their hair short in prison amounts to sexual discrimination, putting an end to a lengthy battle between former lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, widely known as Long Hair, and the city’s prison authorities.
Five judges at the Court of Final Appeal unanimously decided that the rights of Leung, 64, had been breached under sexual discrimination laws when his trademark long hair was cut while he was incarcerated in 2014.
The court overturned the 2018 ruling of a lower court, which said that compulsory haircuts only for male inmates did not amount to discrimination given that short hair for men was the conventional standard of appearance in society.
Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma said in his court judgment Friday that “the hairstyles for men and women in our society would be quite diverse.”
The top judge said the Correctional Services Department, which argued it was only imposing a social norm by requiring male inmates to cut their hair short, had failed to provide a basis for saying that in society the conventional hairstyle for men is a short one and can be long for women.
“It is difficult to accept, without a proper explanation, why individual choices should be denied to male prisoners but not female ones, and what this selective denial of choices has to do with a de-emphasis on individuality anyway.”
Ma concluded that “less favorable treatment” was given to Leung compared with female prisoners and that “there has been discrimination on the basis of sex.”
Leung, a prominent pro-democracy activist, had vowed to keep his long tresses until the Chinese Communist Party collapsed and until the Chinese government reversed its verdict on the June Fourth Incident in 1989, in which a nationwide pro-democracy movement in China ended in a crackdown by the authorities.
In 2014, Leung was sentenced to a four-week jail term for criminal damage and disorderly behavior at a political forum in 2011 while he was still a member of the Legislative Council, the city’s mini-parliament. While in prison, his signature long locks were shorn despite his request to keep them.