The chief executive has filed a court appeal against a ruling that allows a political rival to proceed to challenge his election victory in March, the Court of First Instance heard on Tuesday.
The appeal by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying specifically takes issue with the High Court’s ruling, this month, that it had the power to extend the deadline for the filing of an election petition.
The challenge by Albert Ho Chun-yan, who lost to Leung in the election, came long after the statutory deadline – seven days after the announcement of the election result.
Ho, who came third in the election, lodged the petition after the media disclosed the existence of illegal structures at Leung’s Peak homes. Ho argued that Leung was not duly elected because he lied about illegal structures at the time of the election.
Leung’s lawyers tried to persuade the court not to relax, for Ho, the seven-day statutory deadline after the announcement of the election result.
Arguing for an extension of time, Ho’s lawyers said the media report only came out three months after the election result was known. Thus it would be “nonsense” to require Ho to lodge a petition by that deadline, when the illegal structures had not been discovered.
“I cannot be blamed for not doing anything during the period of my ignorance, particularly when my ignorance was because someone was cheating me,” said Martin Lee Chu-ming SC, for Ho.
He said Ho had filed the petition as rapidly as possible after the illegal structures came to light. It would be in the interest of justice, he said, to have a final court determination on whether Leung had been dishonest – and therefore was not duly elected as the chief executive.
But Johnny Mok SC, for Leung, said the deadline should not be relaxed because Ho’s case was “flimsy” and not reasonably arguable. A rapid determination of the election winner was in the public interest, and any case that was not reasonably arguable should not be allowed to proceed further, he said.
Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon reserved his judgment.
At issue is whether Leung made a false statement when he attacked election rival Henry Tang Ying-yen over illegal structures at Tang’s Kowloon Tong home, during a televised debate.
Ho claims the statement implied that Leung had made no unauthorised alterations to his Peak houses, even though six suspected structures were later uncovered.