Academic battles poll ban
A City University academic whose foreign passport bars him from standing in the Legco election in September is challenging electoral law.
Hans Mahncke filed a judicial review application in the High Court yesterday after the Electoral Affairs Commission ruled he was ineligible to run in a geographical constituency or the functional constituency seat for the education sector.
Yet under the law, 12 functional constituencies are exempted from the Chinese nationality requirement and four incumbents hold British or Canadian passports or have right of abode abroad. Mahncke, who has a German passport and has lived in Hong Kong for over 30 years, branded the ruling discriminatory.
'It is a long-standing problem. The exemption for 12 cherry-picked functional constituencies is absurd,' said Mahncke, an expert in trade law who used to teach in CityU's law faculty before becoming senior co-ordinator for projects in the provost's office. The application comes ahead of the expansion of the legislature from 60 to 70 seats.
According to the Basic Law, a maximum of 20 per cent of lawmakers are allowed to hold foreign passports as long as they are permanent residents. Mathematically, two more lawmakers should be allowed to make use of this right, but the government has yet to decide how to allocate the extra quota.
Functional seats now exempted are largely concentrated in the business and professional sectors.
All geographical lawmakers must be Chinese nationals, but Mahncke said: 'The 20 per cent quota should be open to all seats, which should be 14 in a 70-member Legco.' Rejected by the commission's nominations advisory committee last month, he said he wanted to run for Legco after 'the special political development over the past year'.
Mahncke said he had included the Equal Opportunities Commission as an interested party in the application.
Avery Ng Man-yuen, vice-chairman of the League of Social Democrats, who is assisting Mahncke with the procedures, said the government had to come up with a proposal that treated everyone equally.
'The government has to either involve everyone or take away the exemption for the 12 functional constituencies,' said Ng, who has renounced his New Zealand and Australian passports so he can run in the Islands constituency.
'In the latter case, three lawmakers would be at risk in seeking another four-year term as they are not Chinese nationals.'
He was referring to industrial lawmaker Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, who holds a British passport, and Canadian passport holder Professor Patrick Lau Sau-shing, the architecture-sector lawmaker.
Commercial lawmaker Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung has right of abode in Britain. Legal lawmaker Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee has a British passport but is unlikely to seek another term.
The maximum percentage of seats in the Legislative Council open to foreign passport holders who are permanent residents, under the Basic Law