Kwok Cheuk-kin, a Cheung Chau resident nicknamed the “king of judicial review,” has questioned the court’s decision to prioritise the government’s lawsuit against pro-democracy lawmakers, since he had sought to challenge the oath of Hong Kong’s leader one month ahead of the government.
In light of the government’s unprecedented attempt to oust two localist lawmakers and subsequent lawsuits by pro-Beijing groups against more pro-democracy lawmakers, Kwok filed judicial reviews last month against Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and several pro-Beijing lawmakers in a bid to block the authorities from “moving the goalposts.”
Kwok is still waiting for the court’s approval of his request. However, the court heard the government’s new challenges against four more lawmakers on Thursday. The cases were lodged more than three weeks after Kwok’s application in light of the court’s ruling to disqualify Youngspiration’s Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung Chung-hang from the legislature last month.
‘Equality before the law’
Kwok told HKFP on Thursday that there was no justification for the court to prioritise the government’s judicial review case.
“I feel like the authorities are treating me like a fool. The Secretary for Justice can jump the queue whenever he wants,” he said. “The court needs to tell people why some are allowed to cut the line.”
“If the reason is the case is urgent, then my case should be even more urgent – it concerns the office of the chief executive, which has broader implications.”
Kwok also sent a letter last week to Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung, who oversaw the Youngspiration case and is the presiding judge over the latest oath dispute against four pro-democracy lawmakers. In the letter, Kwok questioned the preferential treatment the government allegedly received.
“Article 25 of the Basic Law stipulates that everyone is equal before the law – but it binds only the common people and does not apply to high-level officials,” Kwok wrote.
“My fellow citizens and I don’t understand. Please enlighten us and clear up the confusion, so that the public can promote to the world that Hong Kong is a city with the rule of law without feeling ashamed.”
Ming Pao reported that early this month, representatives from the Department of Justice tried to apply for the judicial review against the four lawmakers after the High Court’s office hours. When they were refused entry, a representative said: “I am from the Department of Justice.” Their application was accepted shortly afterwards.
‘No special treatment’
The embattled lawmakers appeared in court on Thursday, two weeks after the government filed the judicial review. Barrister Audrey Eu, representing lawmaker Edward Yiu Chung-yim, argued that the court should not give special treatment to the government by prioritising its judicial review, Stand News reported.
Eu added that the court should not assume it could have a speedy trial as the facts surrounding the cases of the four lawmakers are different. She said that the case involves the public interest and lawmakers should be given reasonable time to prepare their arguments.
Mr Justice Au denied that the government enjoys privileges, adding that the decision was made with the public interest in mind.
The other three lawmakers – Nathan Law, Lau Siu-lai and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung – were not represented by lawyers at Thursday’s hearing. All four of them have applied for legal aid and are awaiting approval.
Leung argued that he did not see the urgency in the judicial review challenge against them. He said having four lawmakers appear before the court could deprive the legislature of a quorum, and that participating in the legislature’s sessions should take priority over attending civil court hearings.
My Justice Au agreed to postpone the hearing to February.
Pro-democratic legislators have traditionally used the oath-taking as a means of protest, but never before have there been such repercussions.