image image

Hong Kong high-speed rail

Fight over controversial Hong Kong rail checkpoint moves to High Court as lawyer warns it could prompt Beijing intervention

Former lawmakers Sixtus Leung and Leung Kwok-hung apply for judicial review over co-location bill, with Bar Association chairman Philip Dykes saying move will ‘very likely’ trigger China reaction

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 June, 2018, 8:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 June, 2018, 10:49pm

The fight over the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement at Hong Kong’s express rail terminus has shifted from the Legislative Council to the High Court – a move that could lead to intervention from Beijing.

Two applications for a judicial review of the passage of the so-called co-location bill, which was passed in an atmosphere of acrimony last week, have been filed, with three more expected on Friday.

Bar Association chairman Philip Dykes earlier warned that the legal challenges could, “very likely”, trigger Beijing to interpret the Basic Law.

Former lawmakers Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung made their moves on Thursday. Activists Kwok Cheuk-kin and Hendrick Lui Chi-hang, who had earlier applications dismissed by the court for being premature, and Jeff Ku Chun-hin, a member of the Neo Democrats, are also expected to apply for judicial reviews.

The last time the National People’s Congress interpreted the Basic Law in 2016, Sixtus Leung and Leung Kwok-hung were among six lawmakers kicked out of Legco for taking their oaths in an unorthodox manner.

Officially known as the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (Co-location) Bill, the law allows for passengers to clear both Hong Kong and mainland border checks at a single location, which means mainland laws will be enforced on Hong Kong soil for the first time.

Speaking outside the High Court, Sixtus Leung explained his reasons for naming Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen as respondent: “As the head of the legislature, he has to bear full responsibility for [passing the bill].”

The localist also said he was confident of winning the case, so long as no one “moves the goalposts”.

Asked if he was worried that the legal challenge could lead to a Chinese interpretation of the Basic Law, Sixtus Leung said it was not something he could control.

The localist said he would apply for legal aid, and had not yet hired a lawyer to represent him.

Sixtus Leung wrote in his application that the co-location arrangement had contravened nine provisions of the Basic Law, including Article 18, which states national laws shall not be applied in Hong Kong, expect those listed in the mini-constitution’s Annex III.

As the Basic Law prohibits Legco from making laws that are unconstitutional, Sixtus Leung argued Legco had no power to pass the co-location bill and the court should void its decision.

Former League of Social Democrats lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung also filed his judicial review application on Thursday and named Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan as respondent.

In his application, Leung Kwok-hung said the notion that national laws could be applied to a part of Hong Kong was an “absurd conclusion”.

Separately, former civil servant Kwok and social worker Lui said they would submit their applications on Friday.

Kwok and Lui’s earlier applications were ruled “premature” and dismissed by the High Court last September.

Amending Hong Kong’s mini-constitution for rail checkpoint ‘would open floodgates’

Kwok is expected to name Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor as respondent in his application.

University of Hong Kong legal scholar Eric Cheung Tat-ming said the court will judge whether the applications were filed based on reasonable arguments.

“In principle the court will not accept judicial review applications against laws before they are enacted,” Cheung said.

A spokesman for the Transport and Housing Bureau said the government respects a citizen’s right to apply for a judicial review.

“It remains our target to commission the [express rail link] in September 2018,” the spokesman said.