The long court battle over the chief executive’s election victory resumed on Friday morning in the Court of Final Appeal, where two pan-democratic lawmakers sought leave to appeal an earlier verdict.
In their petition, lawmakers Albert Ho Chun-yan and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung claim Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was not duly elected in the March 25 election because he made false statements before and during the campaign. He falsely denied having illegal structures at his home, which was later proven to be false.
The two lawmakers want to appeal a High Court judgment that handed Ho a setback last month.
The High Court ruled that Ho’s case had little merit and no real prospect of success, and therefore the court would not exercise its discretion to extend a seven-day deadline for filing an election petition.
Ho, the former Democratic Party chairman who finished third in the election, missed the deadline by several months.
On Friday, Hectar Pun SC, for Ho, argued that the court should extend the deadline on the basis that Ho’s is not “a plainly unarguable case”.
“In the interest of justice, I cannot see [why] the ‘real prospect of success’ test [should be applied] at this stage,” Pun said in court.
“[In such] an important matter – of whether a CE is duly elected – the court should scrutinise it very cautiously, and not just by reading the papers and without [summoning] witnesses.”
Pun argued that in determining whether Leung made false statements during his campaign, the court should consider Leung’s two key remarks.
The first was made months before he announced his election bid, saying he had no unauthorised structures at his home. Leung’s second comment came during a televised election forum, when he attacked rival Henry Tang Ying-yen for having unauthorised structures under his York Road residence, Pun said.
However, Mr Justice Robert Tang Ching, a permanent judge of the Court of Final Appeal, expressed reservations about Pun’s submission.
“How may [someone’s remark made months ago] be retracted?” Tang asked. “If [the submission is accepted, then] someone [contesting] in a village representative election … might also face the risk of being prosecuted for failing to retract [his earlier marks] sufficiently.”
Pun countered that the court should focus narrowly on the case itself rather than on the implied legal consequences, because Ho’s case relates to a “concrete matter of affairs” during the race for the city’s top job.