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Hong Kong courts

High Court rejects legal bid against Hong Kong-mainland rail checkpoint plan

Pair vow to fight on after judge says their bid was ‘premature’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 September, 2017, 7:16pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 September, 2017, 10:52pm

A Hong Kong court on Wednesday threw out two applications for permission to lodge judicial reviews against a controversial joint checkpoint arrangement that would see mainland laws applied in Hong Kong.

Adopting a key argument advanced by the government, Mr Justice Anderson Chow Ka-ming said the two leave applications were filed prematurely and there are no exceptional circumstances – as the law requires – for the court to entertain the proposed challenges.

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“I consider it to be plain that the challenge of the [Chief Executive in Council] decision is premature such that leave to apply for judicial review should not be granted,” Chow wrote in a 28-page judgment.

But the setback did not dampen the spirits of the two applicants who were accompanied by more than three dozen supporters to collect the judgment from the High Court on Wednesday.

“I’ll file again at a later stage then,” former civil servant Kwok Cheuk-kin said.

Another applicant, social worker Hendrick Lui Chi-hang, indicated that he would study the judgment with his co-applicant, retiree William Li Ka-lim, to see if they should appeal. In the meantime, Lui said he would stop buying products from enterprises backed by the Chinese Communist Party.

The case centred on the government’s decision on July 25 to lease a quarter of the West Kowloon terminus to the mainland as its designated port area where mainland officers would have full jurisdiction to enforce mainland laws, apart from a few exceptions, as opposed to local laws.

The implementation will require the approval of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress before it is enacted through local legislation.

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The applicants had argued the arrangement was unconstitutional, and claimed a court’s determination now could save officials money and time if the plan was found at a later stage to be flawed.

On Wednesday, the judge said the decision in July merely sets in motion a series of steps to be taken consecutively, and did not amount to a “substantive” or “decisive” decision that would carry substantive legal consequences affecting the applicants’ rights or interests.

“I do not consider that it is possible, at this stage, to come to any conclusion that the proposed co-location arrangement would necessarily be contrary to the Basic Law whatever may be the final form and contents,” he said.

Chow also observed that matters of public expenditures and administrative expediency are essentially political issues to be decided by the government.

“They fall outside the proper functions of the court ... and do not justify the court entertaining the present premature applications for judicial review,” he added.