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Legislative Council oath-taking saga

Private bid to disqualify two Hong Kong lawmakers in doubt after failure to pay deposit

Judge expresses surprise that man’s lawyers failed to advise him to pay a fee needed to kick-start action; he will rule later on whether the case should continue

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 July, 2017, 4:37pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 July, 2017, 9:54pm

A private citizen’s legal bid to disqualify two Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers could be in jeopardy, after a judge on Wednesday expressed surprise that his lawyers had failed to advise him to pay a fee needed to kick-start the action.

Retiree Lo King-yeung lodged lawsuits in March through law firm Chin and Associates against “king of votes” Eddie Chu Hoi-dick – who won the largest number of votes in the Legislative Council polls in September last year – and university lecturer Cheng Chung-tai of Civic Passion.

The legal action followed the disqualification of six other lawmakers since November after a judge ruled in two separate judicial reviews launched by the government that they failed to take their oaths solemnly in October last year.

Lo is alleging that Chu and Cheng failed to take their oaths properly.

Even though Lo engaged two law firms and made two payment attempts, his legal representatives neglected to help him actually lodge the deposit, known as the security cost, needed to initiate civil action.

The court heard that the fee, which is at most HK$40,000, had still not been paid, four months after the writ was filed on March 4, although the city’s top court had previously ruled that such a payment should be given priority.

Chu’s counsel and Cheng urged Court of First Instance judge Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung to dismiss Lo’s legal action, arguing that a reasonable amount of time had passed.

The court was told the delay was partly due to the misinformed view of Lo’s previous solicitor, Barry Chin Chi-yung, that Lo would not have to pay until Chu and Cheng asked him to do so.

The judge said he was “surprised” at Chin’s explanation, stressing that the Legislative Council Ordinance stated clearly a legal action would be put to rest unless a deposit was made.

Lo’s barrister, Lawrence Ma Yan-kwok, said his client should not be penalised because of the inexperience of his former solicitors. He also said such a case was rare for general legal practitioners.

But Au pressed Ma: “So you can sit back and pay in two years’ time?”

The judge further asked why he should exercise his discretion in allowing Lo to pay the sum and proceed with the legal bid.

Au, who earlier disqualified the six other lawmakers, said he would announce at a later date whether he would allow Lo to pursue the case.