An appeal of the legal aid application of three pro-democracy lawmakers, whose statuses were challenged, have been rejected by the court.

The case over their oaths of office in October last year will be heard in March. Their previous legal aid applications were rejected, and they applied for the appeal afterwards.

They said the government used public funds to hire two of the most experienced senior counsels, but they were denied legal means.

Photo: Stand News/TVB Screenshot.

“This is a very unfair situation. We strongly condemn it,” said Lau Siu-lai outside the court.

Lawmaker Edward Yiu said such a situation cannot manifest justice.

“The president of the Legislative Council can use the Council’s resources in the legal battle, but we have to gather resources on our own – we can clearly see the injustice,” he said.

Nathan Law said this case would be one of the most important cases in the city’s constitutional history, and that huge public interest is involved.

“If two more democratically elected lawmakers are unfortunately disqualified, the whole election result will be overthrown, and the pro-democracy camp will lose its majority in the directly elected seats,” he said.

The legal aid application of “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, the other lawmaker challenged by the government, was approved. He urged the public to donate to support the three.

Chan Kin-man. Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP

Chan Kin-man, a Chinese University sociology associate professor who was helping the lawmakers gather funds, said Leung may need HK$1 million as backup even if he was given legal aid.

He said it was expected that the other three would need around HK$1 million to HK$2 million in legal fees each, and that their donation goal of HK$5 million would be used up in a single hearing.

“Since the Umbrella Movement, many lawyers have volunteered their services, but we cannot expect them to do this in the long run,” he said.

Chan said that HK$3.3 million has been donated, and that more fundraising activities will be held including an auction of gifts donated by former lawmakers and artists.

Leung Chun-ying. Photo: GovHK.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and the Secretary for Justice asked the court to declare the offices of the four lawmakers vacant over the oaths they took during October’s swearing-in session. The government lodged the judicial review in early December.

The hearing came after the High Court declared in November that two elected politicians from the localist Youngspiration party, Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, had “declined” to take their oaths and must therefore be disqualified from the legislature. They lost at the Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeal, but they have decided to go directly to the Court of Final Appeal.

Prior to the pair’s first loss, Beijing made a move to reinterpret Hong Kong’s de facto constitution, the Basic Law. It ruled that oath takers must take the oath “sincerely” and read out the oath “accurately, completely and solemnly.” The interpretation opened the door to the scrutiny of other pro-democracy legislators’ oath taking.

Kris Cheng

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.