Hong Kong localism and independence

Ousted Hong Kong lawmaker Lau Siu-lai to challenge decision to ban her from standing in Kowloon West by-election

  • Democratic candidate was prevented from running by returning officer, who said she held views contrary to the Basic Law
  • Lau to argue that she was not given a chance to defend herself
PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 January, 2019, 5:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 January, 2019, 11:06pm

Ousted Hong Kong lawmaker Lau Siu-lai is to launch a legal bid to invalidate the Legislative Council by-election in November she was barred from running in, the Post has learned.

Lau, who was accused of once advocating self-determination for the city, is expected to argue that she was not given a chance to explain her political stance before being disqualified.

The former lawmaker confirmed that she would file an election petition next week, if she cleared the funding arrangement with the crowdfunded Justice Defence Fund.

“My rights to stand in an election have been deprived and I hope to strive for what’s right,” Lau said. “The returning office twisted my political beliefs and did not give me a chance to defend myself.”

Lau was unseated in 2017 from the legislature for improper oath-taking, a move that triggered the Kowloon West by-election last November. While she tried to win back her own seat, the returning officer argued the activist had not genuinely changed her stance calling for “democratic self-determination” in 2016, despite Lau ditching her previous stance before her last campaign.

Legal experts have questioned whether in not giving Lau a proper chance to respond, the returning officer contradicted a landmark court verdict.

In rejecting pro-independence activist Andy Chan Ho-tin’s separate election petition, a High Court ruling said although electoral officials could ban a candidate based on their political beliefs if it was inconsistent with the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, they must give contenders a “reasonable chance” to address any concerns before a final decision was made.

Disqualification of candidates must be able to stand legal test

The democratic camp eventually lost in that by-election to pro-establishment-friendly candidate Chan Hoi-yan.

Lau’s fresh legal bid is the third such challenge by pan-democratic activists.

Last May, Agnes Chow Ting launched an election petition after her candidacy in the Hong Kong Island constituency was voided as her party Demosisto ran on a self-determination platform.

Localist Ventus Lau Wing-hong made a similar legal challenge, after the electoral office used his past remarks on Facebook to disqualify him in the New Territories East constituency.

Central to all three claims was that each candidate had been disqualified without being given a chance to respond.

If this new legal move succeeds, the previous election results could technically be overturned and a new election called. But, according to the Legislative Council Ordinance section 36, a by-election must not be held within four months before the Legco’s end of term of office, meaning any verdict must come before the end of May next year.

A legal source said Chow’s case would be heard in June this year, and both Chow and Lau Siu-lai are to be represented by senior counsel Paul Shieh Wing Tai.

Lau Siu-lai said her case was similar to Chow’s and hoped both provided a stronger case compared to Chan, who supports Hong Kong independence.

“I’ve never supported the cause of independence – what I proposed was to amend the Basic Law under the framework of ‘one country, two systems,” she said, referring to China’s ruling principle over Hong Kong.

Chan Hoi-yan said she respected anyone’s right to lodge an election petition, but would concentrate on her own work in Legco.