Hong Kong government's reform reports may face judicial review in court

A veteran at launching judicial reviews accuses the government of misrepresenting to Beijing Hongkongers' views on universal suffrage

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 August, 2014, 2:45am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 August, 2014, 8:25pm

In the latest twist in the run-up to Beijing's assessment of the city's electoral reform next week, one Hongkonger has challenged in court two official reports summarising local views on universal suffrage arrangements for being "seriously misleading".

Politicians cast doubt on the necessity of the legal action and said it may have come too late to make any difference to Beijing's decision.

The documents, presented by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and a ministerial-level reform taskforce, allegedly fail to reflect the views of Hongkongers, interpret the Basic Law wrongly and have been compiled selectively by the government.

The arguments are put forward by Cheung Chau islander Kwok Cheuk-kin, who has made a name for himself bringing government decisions to court, via his lawyer and Democratic Party founding chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming SC.

In his latest application for a judicial review, Kwok is also seeking a ruling that it is unconstitutional to require chief executive candidates to "love the country and Hong Kong" - which Leung's report describes as a matter the community generally agrees on.

The requirement "cannot be found in the [1984 Sino-British] Joint Declaration, the Basic Law or any other law", the application, lodged yesterday, said.

Kwok's action comes just three days before the National People's Congress Standing Committee begins examining Leung's report, which is based on the findings of the taskforce, drawn from a five-month public consultation. By August 31, the committee will have set out how Hong Kong should elect a chief executive on the principle of one man, one vote in 2017.

In Kwok's 183-page application, he said: "It is of utmost importance for the [committee] to make an informed decision.

"While the public has a legitimate expectation that the government would truthfully and faithfully reflect the views of the people of Hong Kong in the reports, the public consultation … was seriously misleading and unfair to the public."

The administration "tended to meet organisations which held views consistent with its own" and to rely on opinion polls conducted by government-friendly groups, he claimed.

The surveys included those from the Public Opinion Research Centre, a fully owned agency of the One Country Two Systems Research Institute, which had Executive Council member Cheung Chi-kong as an executive director, Kwok said.

Other studies were selectively chosen to suit the government's narrative, he claimed.

There was evidence that "the pro-government camp had mobilised people to produce and submit submissions largely based on templates", he said, citing reports in the South China Morning Post and other media.

Alan Leong Kah-kit SC, a Civic Party lawmaker, doubted what could come out of Kwok's action. "When August 31 comes and goes, the whole thing is a fait accompli. The court will not do anything that is futile." The government has not commented.

Additional reporting by Julie Chu