Lawyers for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying made a number of arguments yesterday in an effort to persuade the High Court to toss out a challenge to his election victory over questions about his credibility.
They said Albert Ho Chun-yan, who came third in the election, did not have an arguable case and had no chance of success, so his election petition should be struck down without a substantive hearing.
Ho had missed the deadline to mount the challenge within seven days of the announcement of the election result, and the court did not have the power now to adjudicate it, the lawyers said.
In lodging the petition, the Democratic Party chairman called into question the chief executive's credibility amid a scandal over alleged illegal structures at his Peak homes.
Last month, the Court of First Instance dismissed applications lodged by Ho and radical politician "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung to launch judicial reviews of Leung's election, on the ground that it should be dealt with by Ho's petition.
The two said the chief executive lied before the election period by saying there were no illegal structures at his Peel Rise homes. Six suspect structures, including a glass enclosure and a wooden trellis, were later uncovered by the media.
Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon said the main arguments of the summary hearing that began yesterday included whether Ho could lodge an election petition after the seven-day statutory limit, and whether the court had the jurisdiction to handle the case with Leung already sworn in.
A full hearing would go ahead if Lam decided to allow the petition.
"Should Hong Kong be held to ransom because someone said that the chief executive, some time prior to assumption of office, said a wrong thing?" asked Johnny Mok SC, for Leung.
He said the legislation intended that a challenge must resolved in the 95 days between the poll and the elected person's assumption of duty.
The seven-day limit, Mok said, was designed to enable Beijing to "confidently appoint" the selected candidate and ensure the election's finality - a point that government lawyers, who joined the hearing as an interested party, agreed with.
It would ensure that there was no "political vacuum" in the government structure, since the chief executive acted as a single person - a role different from and more important than that of other principal officials.
Mok said the chief executive could be removed only by the central government. A determination by the court would serve no real purpose, as it would not require Beijing to remove Leung Chun-ying.
Mok said that although the court did not have power to deal with such a challenge, this did not mean that people had no recourse when the chief executive acted illegally.
Such actions could be followed up by public prosecution, he said.
The time limit also ensured that there would not be conflicts between the court's determination and Beijing's "undoubted discretion".