The High Court has rescheduled the hearing of an election petition by a pro-independence politician for May next year, pending an appeal against the Legal Aid Department’s refusal to provide funding.

Hong Kong National Party leader Andy Chan Ho-tin filed filed a legal challenge over the government’s rejection of his candidacy in the Legislative Council election in September. The Electoral Affairs Commission deemed his support of Hong Kong independence to have violated the Basic Law.

Chan Ho-tin
Chan Ho-tin at the High Court.

In the petition, Chan argued that the returning officer had violated his right to stand as a candidate as guaranteed by the Basic Law. The respondents were Returning Officer Alan Lo Ying-ki of the New Territories West Constituency that Chan intended to contest, and pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho, who ran in that constituency.

“Since nowadays political issues are being packaged as legal matters, I have no choice but to engage in the legal battle. Even if I have no money, I will continue the fight,” Chan said outside court.

Chan asked the High Court on Friday to reschedule the hearing pending his appeal against the Legal Aid Department’s refusal to fund Chan’s petition.

Legal aid

Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung said that Chan should have factored the chance of not being granted legal aid in his decision to file the petition. Since Chan’s application states that he may give up if he is refused legal aid, the judge said it would be meaningless to postpone the hearing if Chan might eventually terminate the petition.

Chan responded that if he lost in his appeal against the Legal Aid Department, he would represent himself without a lawyer.

Chan’s lawyer also asked the judge to consider rescheduling the hearing as soon as practicable so as not to affect the public interest.

Chan Ho-tin
Chan Ho-tin. File Photo: Hong Kong National Party, via Facebook.

Mr Justice Au allowed the extension. The petition hearing is scheduled for May 9 to May 11 next year, while the legal aid appeal takes place on January 19.

Counsel for Lo said they strongly objected to the rescheduling and that the hearing should take place as soon as possible. Ho’s lawyer also said that they hoped the court would hear the case soon.

Chan declined to comment on the reasons for the Legal Aid Department’s rejection.

Lo received a letter of threats and internet attacks in August after the LegCo election candidacy ban sparked controversy.

Mr Justice Au dismissed an election petition against lawmaker Lau Siu-lai on Friday morning, after the applicant failed to pay a deposit and persuade the court to allow for an extension.

He also handed down a ruling in a judicial review on Tuesday, declaring that two pro-independence lawmakers must be disqualified on the basis that they had declined to take their oath owing to their controversial conduct during last month’s swearing-in session at the legislature.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.