Calls for judicial review of HKTV case 'ironic', ex-top judge Andrew Li says

Officials backing court probe of ruling opposed such legal action before, ex-top judge points out

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 November, 2013, 6:14am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 November, 2013, 1:41pm

The former chief justice has weighed into the free-to-air TV licensing row, saying it is ironic some officials have urged a judicial review to deal with the issue.

Andrew Li Kwok-nang told a Hong Kong Bankers Club lunch the same officials had previously raised concerns that such court proceedings were being abused.

Li said the courts were not there to solve political, social or economic problems, and could only determine the limits of legality.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has refused to disclose publicly the reasons behind the Executive Council's decision to issue only two new free-to-air TV licences, thereby denying flamboyant internet entrepreneur Ricky Wong Wai-kay's Hong Kong Television Network a licence.

However, he said last month: "The government made the decision according to the laws, policies and procedure. It will be the same regardless of any judicial review ... If there is one, the court will hear our arguments."

Before his appointment as chief executive, Leung said in 2011 that people who lodged judicial reviews of the government's infrastructure projects and used legal means to challenge its policies delayed administration and increased its workload.

Li said: "A lot of people have raised this question of abuse of judicial review proceedings. Perhaps it's ironic that in recent days there are some people in the executive branch and the district branch who have urged having a judicial review to deal with this TV licence question."

He added: "Some of the people who are now urging that there should be a judicial review are people who have commented there are too many judicial reviews in Hong Kong."

The government's decision to deny HKTV a licence sparked heated debate and calls for a court to examine the government's decision-making process.

The judiciary, Li argued, had adopted a sound system to screen out "unarguable" cases. "Those cases given permission [by the court] could not be seen as an abuse of process, however inconvenient they might be for the government," he said.

Legislative Council President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing and Exco convenor Lam Woon-kwong have called for an internal review of the process that led to the decision on licences - one that Lam said deviated from public expectations. However, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor yesterday reiterated in Legco that the chief executive did not intend to initiate any review.

"The existing system has been working well," she added.

Li also addressed the Basic Law. He said: "In my view, the [National People's Congress] Standing Committee's power to interpret the Basic Law should not be exercised to override a court judgment in Hong Kong, especially one of the Court of Final Appeal."

Video: Thousands of HKTV supporters gather again at government HQ to protests against decision to deny channel a licence