Mid-term poll plan 'breaches basic law'
Tanna Chong and Jennifer Ngo
The government aims to complete legislation to scrap Legislative Council by-elections by the end of the year despite a warning by the Bar Association that the proposal breaches the Basic Law.
Pan-democrats are scrutinising the proposal - likely to be passed with the help of pro-government lawmakers - and planning options, including a judicial review, to block what they see as an absurd legislation denying voters their electoral choices.
'It seems a judicial review is our last resort,' Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said.
'We will discuss with the pan-democrats what the next step is if the proposal is passed. The government should definitely be prepared to face a legal challenge.'
His comments came as Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Secretary Stephen Lam Sui-lung reiterated at a Legco committee meeting yesterday that the proposal to fill mid-term vacancies by the next-best-placed candidate from the previous election would be expedited.
'We will finish legislation as soon as possible,' he said.
Countering the Bar Association's charge that the proposal would contravene the Basic Law, which safeguard Hongkongers' right to vote and stand for election, Lam insisted that 'the new arrangement complies with the Basic Law.'
The proposal stems from the mass resignations of five Civic Party and League of Social Democrats lawmakers last year to force by-elections, which they referred to as a referendum on democracy. All five were returned to Legco. But the by-election turnout was low and the government called the exercise a waste of resources.
Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit called for people to take to the streets on July 1 to resist the bill, which had no public consultation.
'This is a serious infringement of a very basic right,' Leong said. 'The bill should only be passed when enough people voted it through. I would encourage people to come out and protest.'
When asked whether a judicial review of the bill should be conducted, Leong said: 'Let us cross that bridge when we come to it.' He hoped a judicial review would not be necessary.
Law Society president Junius Ho Kwan-yiu said its constitutional committee would further examine the bill before taking the next step.