Hong Kong independence advocate Edward Leung files legal petition over Legco elections ban
High Court writ claims ‘material irregularity’ in the New Territories East poll outcome
Hong Kong independence advocate Edward Leung Tin-kei, whose candidacy in New Territories East in last month’s Legislative Council elections was disqualified, is challenging the constitutionality of the government’s decision about a month after the polls.
In a petition filed at the High Court on Friday, Leung claimed the decision was “unconstitutional” and amounted to “an unreasonable restriction” on his rights to be elected under the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance.
Outside court, Leung said he expected the hearing would start a year from now. “I have no idea how long it will last,” he said. “It will be a long battle.”
Yet he was confident of success. “Nine out of 10 people with legal knowledge would think I’d win,” he said, adding if the court ruled in his favour within two to three years a by-election might be possible.
University of Hong Kong legal scholar Eric Cheung Tat-ming said a by-election in New Territories East would be very likely if the court found Leung eligible to stand in the elections.
Still, Leung said mainland authorities could exert their influence. “We have to face the reality that the Beijing government is able to interpret the Basic Law once again in order to deny any candidates who support Hong Kong independence.”
He said he did not want to answer whether he still supported independence as the topic “had given him enough trouble”. But he admitted he had discussed policies with Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang, the newly elected lawmaker for New Territories East from localist political group Youngspiration.
Watch: Edward Leung reacting to his disqualification from running for Legco
The decision came despite Leung’s making a U-turn from his previous stance. He even signed a “confirmation form” from the commission reinforcing his acceptance of Hong Kong’s status as an inalienable part of China.
In his petition, Leung challenges the Electoral Affairs Commission’s legal right to decide or enquire whether he was being genuine in signing the declaration in his nomination form.
“The decision constitutes a material irregularity in that the outcome of the New Territories East election might have been affected by it,” Leung said in his petition.
Leung is asking the court to determine whether the candidates for his constituency declared by the returning officer to be elected were “duly elected”.
Responsible returning officer Cora Ho Lai-sheung of the commission was named a co-defendant along with all nine elected lawmakers in the geographical constituency. They included Lam Cheuk-ting, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Elizabeth Quat and Eunice Yung Hoi-yan.
Lam, representing the Democratic Party, said he respected Leung’s legal right to pursue his claim.
“We will wait for the court’s ruling,” he told the Post.
Leung was one of six Legco aspirants barred from running in the elections held last month.
He lodged a judicial review against the Electoral Affairs Commission on July 25, claiming the returning officers had no right to decide on the validity of his nomination. But the High Court on July 27 refused to immediately hear his legal challenge to the controversial new electoral rule.
Hong Kong National Party convenor Chan Ho-tin, the first aspirant disqualified from the polls over his pro-independence stance, earlier mounted a legal challenge against the government decision.
The first of the group to pursue a claim against the Electoral Affairs Commission, Chan filed a separate petition on September 9 to ask the High Court to determine whether the winners of New Territories West, the geographical constituency he sought to contest, had been duly elected. He asked the court to declare their victories void if it judged they had not been.
Other rejected candidates included the Democratic Progressive Party’s Yeung Ke-cheong and independence advocate Nakade Hitsujiko.
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Former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said he did not think Leung’s legal action would affect the legislature’s operations.
“We have an established legal system and procedure to deal with any demands raised by anyone ... including election petitions,” he said.
Additional reporting by Chris Lau and Owen Fung