Hong Kong independence activist files appeal against election ban as deadline passes
Localist Andy Chan says being denied legal aid caused him to miss the cut-off date for filing appeal by five days
A Hong Kong pro-independence activist said on Thursday he had filed a belated appeal against a court ruling that upheld electoral officials’ power to bar him from elections because of his political views.
Andy Chan Ho-tin, the convenor of the Hong Kong National Party, missed the April 19 deadline by five days when he filed the appeal on Tuesday. Chan claimed on Thursday he was late because he was denied legal aid on April 17 and was forced to immediately appeal against the denial.
According to Chan, the Legal Aid Department refused to grant him aid on the advice of Paul Lam Ting-kwok, the former Hong Kong Bar Association chairman, who said Chan did not have a reasonable chance of winning the case.
Despite missing the deadline, the localist could still have his case heard if the court decides he had a valid reason for filing the appeal late.
Chan was among several candidates banned from the 2016 Legislative Council election because the returning officer decided he did not mean what he pledged in the declaration to uphold the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.
Since 2016, all candidates seeking office must submit a declaration with their nomination forms that pledges to support the Basic Law, recognising that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China.
Chan submitted an election petition in September that year against the ban and the case was heard last June, with legal aid covered.
In February, the High Court sided with the government’s argument that election officials could ban candidates because of political views but only when presented with “cogent, clear and compelling” evidence they would not uphold the Basic Law.
The ruling said rather than merely confirming whether a candidate’s paperwork has been submitted properly, returning officers can determine whether he or she was sincere when signing the declaration.
“I feel like I have the responsibility to appeal for the right of running elections and freedom of speech in Hong Kong,” Chan said on Thursday. “The Hong Kong court has to make a choice between human rights and rule of law, and the Chinese model of ‘ruling by people’.”
But he conceded that he would consider withdrawing the appeal if legal aid was not granted.
“It would cost me millions of dollars. It is beyond the pressure that I can bear.”