'Long Hair' wins challenge to Legco poll law
Austin Chiu and Tony Cheung
Legislator 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung has won his court challenge to a law that bars people with a pending jail term from contesting a Legislative Council election.
Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon struck down as unconstitutional a section of the Legislative Council Ordinance, saying it contravened Hong Kong people's right to vote and to stand for election. It was inconsistent with the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights, he said.
The section he referred to disqualifies anyone from being nominated as an election candidate if they are due to serve a jail term during the nomination or election period. Nominations open next month.
Unless challenged by the government, the ruling clears the way for Leung to stand in the Legco election in September, although he has yet to serve a two-month term for disrupting public order. He is on bail pending an appeal, but had applied to revoke his bail and serve the sentence.
A jubilant Leung said outside court that he would cancel the application, which was to have been heard today. But he said he had not decided yet whether to take part in the election. 'I have to get back my fundamental rights first,' he said.
Government lawyers said they would need to study the written judgment before deciding whether to seek a suspension of the ruling or file an appeal.
Asked if he was worried that his rights would be affected if the government applied for a suspension, Leung said: 'I would see it as strange for a government to make such an effort to stop a person standing for election.'
Lam will hand down next week his written reasoning for yesterday's decision on a judicial review launched by Leung, chairman of the radical League of Social Democrats, and fellow league member Anson Wong Hin-wai. The judge said he gave a speedy decision to allow Leung time to decide whether he would serve his jail term immediately to ensure he could run in the election.
In March, Leung was given a two-month sentence for disrupting a consultation forum on a proposal to scrap Legco by-elections last year. After deductions, he would have to spend 40 days behind bars.
Wong was jailed for two weeks for disrupting a speech by Transport and Housing Secretary Eva Cheng in April last year, to protest against increases in MTR fares. Both are appealing.
The judge asked lawyers to file further submissions to help him decide whether another provision of the law, which bans prisoners from running in elections and which the pair also challenged, is unconstitutional.
People Power activist Wong Yeung-tat, who served a three-week jail term to make sure he could contest the election in Kowloon West, welcomed the ruling.
He said he did not regret going to jail. 'Different people have different views ... Leung was more confident but I chose to play it safe,' he said.
Wong was jailed for disrupting the same public forum as Leung last year.
Meanwhile, the Court of First Instance upheld the acquittals of two League of Social Democrats members charged with disorderly conduct for throwing a bottle and a bag of cornflour during a protest outside the central government's liaison office in 2010.
Mr Justice Pang Wai-cheong dismissed a prosecution appeal against the acquittals of Chiu Hin-chung and Keung Ling-cheung.
Pang ruled that the pair's behaviour would not provoke a violent response by others, so they did not cause a breach of the peace.