Provisional Legco 'was misled on jail-term law'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 June, 2012, 12:00am


A High Court judge says the provisional Legislative Council was misled into passing an unconstitutional law that bans anyone awaiting a short jail term from standing for election.

Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon made his comments in a written ruling handed down yesterday to explain his ruling in favour of lawmaker 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung and his decision to strike out the disputed Legislative Council Ordinance section.

The law disqualified from nomination anyone serving, or due to serve, a jail term during the nomination or election period.

Leung and fellow League of Social Democrats member Anson Wong Hin-wai sought the judicial review as they both face pending jail terms and wish to run in the September Legco elections. The judge ruled in their favour last week.

In the 51-page judgment, Lam said the provisional Legco - the body in place just before the 1997 handover - voted in favour of the law because the government used misleading terms such as 'fugitive' and 'escaped convicts', to explain its need.

The judge found the legislation failed to give any consideration to the rights of a person on bail pending appeal, although he did not say that the government had deliberately misled lawmakers on the issue.

The judge also pointed out that there were already provisions to disqualify lawmakers sentenced to jail terms in excess of three months or convicted of specified offences.

He rejected the government's claim that allowing people facing jail terms to run for office would create uncertainty and confuse voters. He said it was unlikely that a candidate's conviction or potential jail sentence could be hidden from voters.

'I have no doubt that the voters in Hong Kong are intelligent enough to take into account the potential contingency of imprisonment of such candidates in deciding whether to cast their votes in favour of him or her,' Lam wrote.

Leung was sentenced to two months in jail for disrupting a consultation forum on a proposal to scrap Legco by-elections last year.