An activist has lodged an appeal for a judicial review to challenge a government department which refused to allow election materials containing “problematic” references to localism to be mailed out to the public.

Hong Kong Indigenous member Edward Leung Tin-kei accuses the Registration and Electoral Office (REO) of acting unconstitutionally. He argues that the decision violated his freedom of expression and discriminated against his political opinion.

Leung ran as a candidate in the Legislative Council by-election in February. According to election rules, candidates can send a free election mailout through the Hongkong Post to all voters in the consistency.

Edward Leung Tin-kei. Photo: Facebook/Yuk Man Wong.
Edward Leung Tin-kei. Photo: Facebook/Yuk Man Wong.

Specimens of his election mails sent to the post office included terms such as “valiant resistance”, “autonomy”, “self-determination” and “self-independence”.

The post office told Leung that the REO considered the specimens noncompliant with conditions laid down in the relevant guidelines of the Electoral Affairs Commission. Therefore the leaflets could not be accepted for free postage unless all the sensitive content was removed.

Leung said in the application that the subject matter of the judicial review was of considerable public interest and importance. He added that Hong Kong Indigenous would likely run for elections in the future and include sensitive content in its advertisements once again.

Draft election mail of Edward Leung Tin-kei.
Draft election mail of Edward Leung Tin-kei. Photo: Stand News.

Previously, the REO had refused to send free election mailouts for a pro-independence district council election candidate, Nakade Hitsujiko, as they included phrases such as “Nation Building for Hong Kong City-State”, “Neighbouring economic heavyweight” and “Promote Hong Kong’s sovereignty to foreigners”, which were deemed to be in violation of the Basic Law.

Chinese and Hong Kong officials have heavily criticised the Hong Kong independence movement over recent months.

The Civic Party’s Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu eventually won the by-election but, after Leung grabbed more than 66,000 votes, localists became a significant force on the election scene.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.