Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying received a setback on Wednesday when a High Court judge ruled that a challenge can proceed against his election victory in March.
Leung had wanted the challenge, from defeated candidate Albert Ho Chun-yan, to be thrown out without a substantive court hearing.
But Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon, in the Court of First Instance, ruled that the court had the power to handle such a petition even though the central government had confirmed Leung’s appointment as chief executive. This did not constitute a usurpation of power, he found.
Lam also ruled that the court had the discretion to extend the official deadline for filing an election petition past the seven-day mark after the announcement of the voting results. This was because the court had a constitutional duty to oversee and safeguard a free election, he said.
Ho accuses Leung of lying about not having illegal structures at his home on The Peak, which was exposed by the media after the election.
He cites Leung’s attack on election rival Henry Tang Ying-yen over illegal structures at Tang’s family home in Kowloon Tong. Ho said the attack, made during a televised debate, gave people the impression that Leung had made no unauthorised alterations to his own house. Yet six suspect structures were later found there.
Lam ruled that the full arguments in the case should be heard at a substantive hearing.
But Lam ruled that another alleged false statement fell outside the legal challenge. That statement was made when Leung invited the media to his Peel Rise home about a year before the election, saying he had been told by professionals that the property was free of illegal structures.
Lam also ruled that Ho did not abuse the judicial process – even if political motives lay behind his actions.
Lam wrote in his judgment that, given the public importance of a speedy determination of the matter, a hearing would be held within 10 days.
In July, the Court of First Instance dismissed applications lodged by Ho and radical politician “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung to launch judicial reviews of Leung’s election, on the grounds that it should be dealt with by Ho’s petition.