C.Y. Leung suffers blow as judge allows challenge to election win
Blow to chief executive as judge allows petition by defeated candidate Albert Ho to proceed
Austin Chiu and Thomas Chan
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying received a setback yesterday when a High Court judge ruled that a challenge by defeated chief executive candidate Albert Ho Chun-yan against his election victory in March could proceed.
Leung's lawyers wanted Ho's petition thrown out without a hearing.
They made a number of arguments, saying Ho did not have an arguable case and had no chance of success.
Ho accused Leung of lying about illegal structures at his Peak homes at the time of the election and called his integrity into question. The structures were exposed by the media after the election.
Ho said outside court: "I'm determined to continue the process in a bid to ensure that we have a fair election."
In his judgment, Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon rejected Leung's suggestion that the court had no power to handle such a petition after the central government had appointed Leung as the government chief.
"The absence of jurisdiction to remove a chief executive does not mean that the court has no jurisdiction to entertain an election petition after his assumption of office," the Court of First Instance judge wrote.
"The court's duty in the hearing of an election petition is to make a determination whether a returned candidate is duly elected," he wrote, saying this would not the central government's power to appoint and remove the chief executive.
He wrote that political consequences following a court ruling were not a matter for the court.
Lam also ruled against a suggestion by Leung's lawyers that Ho's case should not be heard because he missed the statutory seven-day deadline to file the petition after the announcement of the poll result in March.
Lam ruled that the court had the discretion to extend the deadline because it had a constitutional duty to oversee and safeguard a free election.
Lam said Ho had an arguable case on whether Leung made a false statement when he attacked election rival Henry Tang Ying-yen over illegal structures at Tang's Kowloon Tong home in a televised debate.
Ho said the statement implied that Leung had made no unauthorised alterations to his Peak houses, yet six suspected structures were uncovered by the media.
But Lam ruled that another alleged statement fell outside the challenge.
That statement was made when Leung invited the media to his Peel Rise home about a year before the election, saying he was told by professionals that there were no illegal structures.
A one-hour hearing has been scheduled for September 25, during which Ho will make his application for extension of the deadline.