The court has refused an urgent request to process a judicial review challenge against the Electoral Affairs Commission’s new arrangements lodged by three Legislative Council hopefuls. However, it has granted permission for the case to go forward and it will be dealt with in accordance with normal procedures.
The application was filed in response to a new requirement that asked election candidates to sign a declaration promising to uphold three specific provisions in the Basic Law related to China’s authority over Hong Kong.
The three potential candidates who applied for the judicial review are localist candidate Edward Leung Tin-kei from Hong Kong Indigenous, League of Social Democrats Chair Avery Ng Chi-yuen and its vice-chair Derek Chan Tak-cheung. They are asking the court to define the scope of the returning officer’s powers and to quash the Election Affairs Commission’s decision.
As the nomination period ends on Friday, they asked for an urgent hearing to process the applications. However, this was rejected by the court on Wednesday afternoon.
Au said that because the Election Affairs Commission’s requirement is not binding, it was not an urgent matter that the court had to deal with. Au also said that the court does not find it appropriate to interfere with ongoing elections.
However, Martin Lee, who is representing the applicants, said that the arrangement is destroying the confidence the public has in the election system and therefore, there should be no delay. He said if the case was processed after the election, even if the applicants won, they would have to wait to run in the next elections – which means depriving them of the right to run, Apple Daily reported.
When High Court judge Thomas Au said there would be little difference if the case lists, Lee said that the assumption should be in favour of the applicant, and if the judicial review failed, the applicants could consider whether or not to sign the declarations.
Earlier, Leung received an email from the returning officer asking him to clarify his stance on Hong Kong independence. Leung asked for an extension of deadline in light of the legal challenge, and the returning officer told Leung that the deadline to reply has been extended to 11am on Thursday.