Hong Kong courts

Activist mulls injunction as court schedules hearing into controversial Hong Kong rail checkpoint for month after it is expected to open

Ex-lawmaker Baggio Leung considers next move in battle against government’s co-location plan for West Kowloon terminus, although legal experts rate his chances of success as minimal

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2018, 5:27pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2018, 10:42pm

A pro-independence activist could apply for an injunction against the Hong Kong government’s controversial co-location plan for the West Kowloon rail terminus, after a court ruled on Tuesday it would not hear his legal challenge until a month after the station is expected to have opened.

Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang, one of five people to apply to the High Court for a judicial review on the plan to make national laws applicable on Hong Kong soil as part of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, told the Post he was considering the move.

However, legal experts said Leung’s chances of success were low, and the court’s timetable would not delay the opening of the high-speed link, or the checkpoint in West Kowloon where the “co-location arrangement” will be implemented.

The legal challenges to the government’s plan revolve around whether allowing mainland officers to set up border checkpoints and implement national laws in the city will breach the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, which guarantees Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy.

The constitution states that national laws are generally not applicable in Hong Kong.

On Tuesday, the Court of First Instance announced it would hear the judicial challenges against the arrangement on October 30 and 31, even though the HK$84.4 billion (US$10.7 billion) railway project is scheduled to begin operating in September.

For Leung, the matter rests on the question of jurisdiction.

Trip on high-speed train will not sway us on joint checkpoint: opposition lawmakers

“What if something happened after the train has started operation? Who will be in charge?” he asked. “Are Hongkongers and others still under the protection of the Basic Law?”

The Post has approached the other applicants, or their legal representatives, for comment. Among former civil servant Kwok Cheuk-kin, NeoDemocrats member Jeff Ku Chun-hin, and ousted lawmakers “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Baggio Leung, only the latter is considering an injunction as his next move.

Leung Kwok-hung said it would not be wise to do so, since the judicial reviews would be dealt with in October anyway.

Executive Council member Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a barrister, said it would be unlikely the court would grant the order anyway.

He said the court would look at the prospect of Leung’s case and whether the damage done to the government – if the order was granted – would be reversible.

“The loss could amount to hundreds of millions [of dollars],” he said. On the contrary, Leung would suffer no financial loss if the project was not halted temporarily.

The court’s timetable would have no effect on the scheduled launch, either, he said.

Eric Cheung Tat-ming, the principal law lecturer at the University of Hong Kong, agreed.

“The government is entitled to proceed as long as no verdict has been handed down,” he said.

He added the Court of First Instance did not aim for an even earlier date because it had anticipated its ruling would not be the end of the matter, and further appeals would take more time.

Hong Kong Bar Association ‘appalled’ by approval of joint checkpoint plan

However, both men said there could be legal hiccups if the court ruled against the arrangement after it had been put in place.

Disputes over jurisdiction could arise during the transition, they note, if the government had to reverse the joint checkpoint arrangement.

Speaking to media at the Legislative Council on Tuesday, Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu said the government had strong confidence in the legal basis of the co-location plan, and would deal with court challenges in accordance with the laws.