Judge rules in favour of corporate voting system

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 December, 2009, 12:00am

The corporate voting system for functional constituency elections in the Legislative Council did not conflict with the Basic Law, a High Court judge ruled yesterday as he struck down two applications for a judicial review of the constitutionality of the election mechanism.

Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung ruled in the Court of First Instance on applications launched by activists Lo Hom-chau and Chan Yu-nam, both members of the League of Social Democrats. The pair sought to challenge the legality of corporate voting on the grounds that it breached Article 26 of the Basic Law, which stipulates that permanent residents of Hong Kong should have the right to vote and stand for election.

Lo, who is self-employed, complained that only corporate bodies had the right to vote in the elections for the real estate and construction sector. Chan, a taxi driver, complained that he was unable to vote in the transport sector because it only consisted of corporate voters.

Barrister Gladys Li SC, for Chan, had argued that the corporate voting system was unconstitutional because only 'natural persons' had the constitutional right to vote in elections, and not companies or corporate bodies.

Lo's barrister Hectar Pun argued that the system was an unreasonable restriction on individual rights and required justification.

Michael Thomas SC, representing the government, had countered that the Basic Law did not exclude corporate bodies from taking part in elections.

He said Article 26 provided every permanent resident with the right to vote and this was fulfilled through geographic constituencies.

In yesterday's judgment, Cheung held that corporate voting was not excluded by the Basic Law, noting that 'corporate voting was there from day one' and there had been a reason for it.

'Functional constituencies have evolved over the years as a means of enabling, for example, important sectors in Hong Kong's industrial and commercial activities and also its leading professionals to be appropriately represented in the Legislative Council,' the judge said.

He said companies were made constituents of a functional constituency because of their interests in and contributions to it. He found it to be the reason companies were given a say in Legco representation.

The judge said corporate voting was an integral part of the electoral arrangements when functional constituencies were introduced in 1985, and had continued since. He held that Article 26 was never intended to apply to elections for functional constituencies as it was about the electoral rights of permanent residents.

Lawmaker 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung of the League of Social Democrats said his fellow activists would seek legal advice on whether to appeal.