Acquittal of Cap 599G offence

Court held on 18 June 2021 that an urgent meeting by bar owners and a lawmaker to discuss a hastily made 14-day ban on bars in Hong Kong in April 2020 did not violate the Prevention and Control of Disease (Prohibition on Group Gathering) Regulation (Cap 599G). Our firm represents the three defendants in this case, and instructed counsel are Mr. Franco Kuan and Mr. Jack Chan of Lok Chambers.

Former lawmaker the Hon Tanya Chan, restaurateur Mr Gordon Lam, and bar owner Mr Chan were accused of violating the group gathering prohibition when they held an urgent meeting on 2 April 2020 with owners and stakeholders of bars in Hong Kong to discuss the new regulation introduced by the Government that day ordering bars to close for 14 days from 3 April 2020.

The gists of the case were whether the then-closed bar was considered a public place under Cap 599G; if not, whether the meeting came under any of the three exemptions of the regulation. The Court ruled that “public place” under Cap 599G has a wider meaning than in the Public Order Ordinance as the legislative intent was to uphold social distancing, therefore the bar, albeit indicated “private” and roller shutter lowered, was considered a public place for the purpose of this case. Nevertheless, since the meeting was to explain the newly introduced public health regulation to bar owners, which amounts to conveying information to help contain Covid-19, it was exempted from the group gathering prohibition.

It was the first case heard by the court on the application of the exemptions under Cap 599G since its implementation in March 2020.